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Healthcare is rapidly being "weaponized" against us.
"Eat that extra donut in the morning," I quipped during a recent appearance on Fox Business Network, and "watch your healthcare premiums go up that afternoon."
After the laughter died down and the chuckling stopped, things got serious.
The big story is that companies can have all the data they want, even if you'd rather they didn't. And the regulators are totally complicit in making this happen.
Which means you've got to think about healthcare differently.
Especially when it comes to profits.
Many people, for example, are surprised to learn that you do NOT own your own cells.
In fact, companies can harvest them, and the data that goes with 'em, for commercial purposes. Then use that information to do any number of things, from calculating your mortality, to jacking up your life insurance premiums, even designing ultra-expensive prescription medications.
"No way," I've heard more than once.
Yet, it's true.
A 1990 California Supreme Court ruling determined that a man named John Moore didn't own the cell line that had been created without his knowledge over a seven-year period by UCLA. They were working on commercializing the treatment for the hairy cell leukemia he had, using tissue harvested from his spleen after the hospital removed it. Dr. David Golde, who'd recommended removing it, even went on to receive a U.S. patent on Moore's tissue line!
It's a similar story for Henrietta Lacks, who famously had her cervical cancer cells harvested in 1951 without her knowledge or permission. They're STILL grown perpetually in a Johns Hopkins laboratory as "immortal cells" – the first cell line of its kind.
And that's not even the worst part!
Your medical information is worth an estimated 10 to even 20 times what your credit card number is on the black market, according to various sources. Perhaps even more, as the level of detail increases and the "sharing" that's supposedly in our best interest accelerates.
The medical community is only the half of it.
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We're now handing the bulk of our most intimate personal details over voluntarily.
No theft involved.
Heck, there's not even any good old-fashioned deception.
If you check into a hospital, that three-inch thick pile of paperwork you sign is very likely to include a waiver that gives the hospital, your doctor, and all the institutions with which it interacts permission to use your data for research in perpetuity.
Fancy one of dozens of wearable fitness trackers?
Three guesses who's selling that information to advertisers, drug companies, fitness equipment, and medical device makers. First two don't count, incidentally.
Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) just announced that its Alexa Team has created a "skill" that'll work with Omron Corp.'s (OTC: OMRNY) blood-pressure monitors. It's being sold as a benefit – naturally – that you'll be able to ask Alexa how you're doing … but gimme a break!
Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) wants to get in bed with you. The London Times recently reported that Team Cook has developed the iSheet – a "smart" duvet that tracks breathing, your heart rate, temperature… even how often you squirm around.
No doubt you can see where this is going.
We are rapidly approaching the point at which you will be denied health insurance or have your premiums jacked significantly higher, based on readings from seemingly benign appliances and instruments.
Insurance companies love this idea, of course.
Some, like UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH), are even offering a hefty cash discount or credit if you meet your "goals."
My fear is that increasingly it'll be "their" goals, though.
Offering cash to sweeten the pot is something data companies do when they want to harvest information that will – mark my words – ultimately be used against us.
About the Author
Keith Fitz-Gerald has been the Chief Investment Strategist for the Money Morning team since 2007. He's a seasoned market analyst with decades of experience, and a highly accurate track record. Keith regularly travels the world in search of investment opportunities others don't yet see or understand. In addition to heading The Money Map Report, Keith runs High Velocity Profits, which aims to get in, target gains, and get out clean. In his weekly Total Wealth, Keith has broken down his 30-plus years of success into three parts: Trends, Risk Assessment, and Tactics – meaning the exact techniques for making money. Sign up is free at totalwealthresearch.com.