Ron Calderon: The Anti-Speier

Ignore the physical differences between Jackie Speier and Ronald Calderon, the jokes are too easy to make.  These two legislators are basically examples of where the California Democratic Party is coming from and where it is headed. Calderon is the past, Speier is the future.

Current Representative (and 20-year state legislator) Speier is a leader who stands up to corporations. The privacy bill that she passed is the toughest in the nation. And she passed that despite the fierce opposition of financial institutions that the bill regulated, save for the CEO of e-Loan.  Oh, and she pissed off the Republicans in the House. While the privacy bill is her hallmark legislation, she has a record that anybody would be proud of.

Calderon, on the other hand, is part of the “Mod Squad” intent on nuzzling up to the corporate trough. He is fond of the all money is good money philosophy, no matter how many strings are attached. And perhaps he knows something about which Rep. Speier speaks. In this session, he has been pushing SB1096, a bill to allow pharmacies to sell medical records to pharmaceutical marketers. The privacy implications are astounding, and unacceptable.

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The legislation would allow pharmaceutical firms to send mailings directly to patients. Supporters of the proposal say the intent is to remind patients to take their medicine and order refills. But consumer privacy advocates are outraged.

“This bill would be a windfall for corporations seeking to track, buy and sell a patient’s private medical records,” said Zack Kaldveer, spokesman for the Consumer Federation of California. “This would represent a significant intrusion by pharmaceutical companies into the privacy of patients.

“By opening this Pandora’s box, consumers could wind up receiving mailings designed to look as if they came from the pharmacy yet conflict with what their pharmacist or doctor has recommended. Such a scenario would be a threat to their health.”

The California Medical Association opposes the legislation, contending that it could jeopardize patient safety and hurt doctor-patient relationships. The mailings are particularly problematic for patients with sensitive medical issues such as mental illnesses, says the association. (SF Chron 5/28/08)

The bill originally failed by a vote of 17-17, with an interesting coalition of Republicans and Democrats opposing the bill. Eventually, Calderon was able to pass the bill out of the Senate last week by adding an opt-out provision. The final Senate vote was 21-16, with the Noes including progressives like Kuehl and Migden and conservatives like McClintock and Battin.

However, opt-out is not strong enough. Heck, even e-mail marketers for retail stores like the gap have the common courtesy to ask before they send us spam. The least California can do is require that pharmacies get affirmative opt-ins to this practice. The privacy of medical records is just too important to monkey around with opt-out rules.

But opt-out wouldn’t really work for the drug marketers, would it? The data would be too sporadic to have any great value.  This bill was essentially written by Adheris, the self-described leader in “prescription drug patient behavior modification.” In other words, they’re trying to sell more drugs. By the way, they don’t have such a great record on these issues:

A primary backer of the bill is Adheris Inc, a subsidiary of a drug marketing company that was sued several years ago under its former name for privacy violations. Adheris is involved in a pending class-action lawsuit in San Diego involving the same issues in the Calderon bill. (SF Chron 5/28/08)

The California Senate made the mistake of letting this stinker slip through. The Assembly cannot do the same. Contact your Assemblymember and tell them to vote NO on SB 1096. I know I’ll be contacting mine.

7 thoughts on “Ron Calderon: The Anti-Speier”

  1. Don’t forget how all the Calderons hire each other as “consultants” and have rotated the legislative seats in their area  like they own ’em. And don’t forget that brother Charles tried to oust Willie Brown with the “Gang of 5” and the GOP.

    I think, though that the Calderon approach may win out in the end. There are too many parts of Southern California where so few people vote, anyone can get elected and make their own little fiefdom and end up in a Legislature hobbled by term limits.

    “Progressive” Democrats or just plain Real Democrats are going to have to start building a farm team, and frankly ousting some really bad people if they want to prevail in the legislature. Otherwise it’s capitulation road for California.

  2. Calderon is selling out the privacy of patient’s medical information for a few thousand in campaign contributions.  It is disgusting.

    Calderon’s bill expressly authorizes pharmacies to sell your medical information to pharmaceutical companies so that they can send you marketing material.  For example, say you suffer from depression and were prescribed Zoloft.  But then you decided you didn’t like the side-effects so you didn’t refill your prescription.  Under Calderon’s bill, your pharmacist is allowed to sell your name, address, and prescription information to Pfizer so that Pfizer can send you direct mail with advertisements for Zoloft.  Under the law, Pfizer could continue to send you these direct-mail advertisements for an indefinite period of time.

    In case you’re wondering why Calderon is carrying the water for the pharmacies and the pharmaceutical companies, just take a look at his campaign contributors from just last year:

    Bristol Meyers Squibb – $3,600

    Eli Lilly & Co. – $3,600

    GalxoSmithKline – $1,700

    Johnson & Johnson – $1,000

    National Association of Chain Drug Stores – $1,000

    Rite Aid – $1,000

    Safeway – $1,500

    Schering Corp. – $1,000

    Target – $2,000

    Walgreens – $3,000

    If you’re looking for some consolation, at least Calderon got a good price for selling out our medical privacy to the drug companies.  

  3. The primary backer of Calderon's bill, Adheris, Inc., is well known in Washington.  And not in a good way.  The company used to be known as Elansys. As the ACLU reports:

    Two years after Elensys Care Services Inc. ran into an explosion of disapproval over its use of confidential prescription records, the Massachusetts database management company has taken an unusual approach to public relations, The Washington Post reported.

    It went away.

    According to the Post, Elensys dropped its old name, without issuing a press release, and, in state documents filed last fall, quietly became Adheris Inc. The company still helps drug stores to remind patients to take medication on time. It has the same executives, the same address at a Woburn, Mass., office park, the same telephone number. But gone is the name that came to symbolize the growing unease about personal privacy, after people in the Washington region learned that CVS, Giant and other pharmacies were sending personal medical information to Elensys without their permission.

    At the time, Elensys used the data to identify customers who had not refilled prescriptions and to send personalized letters urging them to do so. Elensys also sent out materials about drugs, on behalf of manufacturers who paid a fee, to customers with particular ailments.

    So fierce was the backlash from customers that CVS and Giant quickly apologized publicly and cut ties to the company. Several customers went after Elensys and its partners in a class-action lawsuit for breaching their privacy. The name “Elensys” is routinely cited during Capitol Hill discussions about privacy.

    Thank you Senator Calderon for putting the privacy of California's patient information in the hands of Elensys Adheris!

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