Monday, July 27, 1998 - The Michigan Daily - 7
Legislation would change IDs
y Gerard Cohtn-Vignaud
aily News Editor
Legislation making its way through
ongress could dramatically alter the
ay people are identified, how personal
nformation is stored and who would
ave access to individual files. It also
eans the University would have to
up its own efforts to meet the
equirements of the bill.
The Privacy Protection Act, intro-
uced by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas)
ould forbid all organizations except
he Social Security Administration
rom using the social security number
s a form of personal identification.
When the Social Security
dministration was originally
aunched, account numbers were issued
all Americans, but the intent of the
gram was not to create a form of
"The government has let the social
security number become an identifying
number," said Michael Sullivan, press
secretary for Paul. "You have all this
information tied together with no con-
trols. The bill very simply restores the
integrity of the social security number."
The number, easily obtainable
because of its universal application,
combined with another piece of person-
al information, such as a birth date, can
be used to obtain credit cards, bank
accounts and birth certificates.
The dangers have not escaped the
attention of University administrators.
"Well, I think there is a perception and
reality that people can use the social secu-
rity number for other purposes such as
fraud,' said John Gohsman, director of
information networking service for the
Registrar. "The more private we can keep
social security numbers, the better."
Until very recently, University IDs dis-
played the social security number on the
back. But the University, in accordance
with a policy it instituted back in 1996,
has begun to move away from using
social security numbers andhas ceased to
display the number on M-Cards.
"The main intent is to get away from
the active and obvious use of social
security numbers," said Laurie Burns,
director of customer relations and sup-
port for the Information Technology
Division. "Because social security
numbers are linked to so much person-
al information, it's a privacy issue."
Once the five-year plan is completed,
University officials hope the social secu-
rity number will only be one piece of data
in someone's personal file, rather than the
key to unlock individual information.
"The continue use of social security
numbers has created vulnerabilities for
University community members," Burns
said. "With the plan, the number becomes
just another piece of information."
The PPA would also prohibit federal
agencies from using the same identifi-
cation numbers for U.S. residents,
hence eliminating the widespread use
of social security numbers.
While remembering all those numbers
may be difficult, Sullivan said it is ludi-
crous for the government to aid thieves by
making social security numbers integral to
all personal information, adding that the
logistical problems facing universities
changing their systems are insignificant.
"Why should the government give
the tools with which people can steal?"
Sullivan asked. "Something tells me
that with all the PhDs walking around
on campus, someone can come with an
Theodore Standiford, a pulmonologist at the University Medical Center, checks
a patient's lung with a stethoscope.
'U' study suggests
HMOs not all bad
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By Susan T. Port
Daily News Editor
Is there a doctor in the house?
Despite negative press on Health
Maintenance Organizations, a
University study suggests HMOs
may be doing a better job choosing
hospitals for their patients than other
In the study, Health Management
Prof. Michael Chemew and Penn
State Prof. Dennis Scanlon focused
on a sample of 5,854 patients who
underwent coronary artery bypass
graft surgery in 1991. The patients
were all in California.
"We had data on hospital quality
based on estimates on the number of
people that died receiving daring
open heart surgery" Chemew said.
"Based on that data we knew what
hospitals were better to choose."
Chemew said the media has given
HMOs a bad reputation concerning
choosing hospitals for patients. But
he added literature on the system is
"You listen to the press, which
suggests that HMOs are worse,"
Cherew said many patients do
not know much about the quality of
hospitals. The results showed that
HMO enrollees were about 20 per-
cent more likely to receive care from
a hospital considered above average
than from hospitals of average qual-
The researchers also found that
HMO patients travel farther for care.
"If you are not in a HMO, you are
more likely to go to a hospital you
want, one closer to you," Chernew
said. "The hospital you choose may
not be the best."
Around 46 to 53 percent of the
HMO patients were less likely to
receive care at a hospital 15 miles
from their house than a hospital
within five miles of their home.
Non-HMO patients were 60 to 64
percent less likely to travel 15 miles
if a hospital was five miles away.
HMOs are "more likely to send
people further," Chernew said.
Chernew said the hospitals the
organizations picked tended to be
better than what the patient would
choose. But he added that HM~s'
choices may not be the best either.
Chernew said he was not sur-
prised by the results from his
"HMOs do a better job of avoid-
ing the worst hospitals," Chernew
The researchers did caution that
HMOs vary and differ from each
other in services and care. Chernew
added that research is being done to
help people choose the best health
Ann Arbor resident Sara Javidi
said she does not belong to an HMO.
"I guess HMOs are the wave of
the future," Javidi said. "I still think
patients can choose the best hospital