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.
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.