OCT 20 1994

XX Nashville, Tennessee XX Dear XX Your letter to Mr. George Stephanopoulus has been referred to me for response. Your letter questions whether the use of medical records in the investigation and defense of claims by insurance companies constitutes discrimination on the basis of disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA authorizes the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance to individuals and entities that have rights or responsibilities under the Act. Pursuant to that authority, this letter provides informal guidance to assist you in understanding the ADA. However, this technical assistance does not constitute a legal interpretation of the statute, and it is not binding on the Department. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by places of public accommodation, including service establishments such as insurance companies. Included within this prohibition is a ban on unnecessary inquiries into the nature or existence of a disability. Examination of medical records when determining a claimant's right to compensation for an injury allegedly sustained in an automobile accident would appear to be necessary to determine the extent of injury and whether the injury was actually caused by the automobile accident or whether it was pre-existing. The policy of reviewing medical files, therefore, would not appear to violate the ADA unless medical records were requested only from claimants with disabilities and not from claimants without disabilities.

cc: Records, Chrono, Wodatch, McDowney, Hill, Friedlander, FOIA n:\udd\hille\policlt\ltr


-2I hope this information is helpful to you. Sincerely,

John L. Wodatch Chief Public Access Section 01-03481

July 19-21 Mr. George Stephanopolus Presidential Advisor Room 39 Executive Offices The White House Washington, DC 20500 Dear Mr. Stephanopolous:


Thank you for your response to my letter of April, 1994. I never expected an answer back, but am delighted you took the time to write. Despite the issues I wrote you about earlier, I have a much more compelling issue to bring to your attention, due to recent experiences I have encountered, which could involve millions of Americans. One matter involves the most blatant, outrageous discrimination due to disability I have ever heard of, and American insurance companies' vulgar exploitation of it. I have heard of things like this, but never encountered it personally until recently, when I was involved in a car wreck, and when I was told of a similar experience a disabled friend of mine has had with insurance companies, after she was hit in a car wreck, and the common insurance practice of targeting the disabled in a manner which I am about to relay to you.

I have reported this matter to the National Council on Disability in Washington, in hopes that this practice can be investigated and corrected. I bring it to your attention as well, because, despite the Americans with Disabilities Act, blatant discrimination still plagues the disabled in ways you cannot imagine. Let me explain. Recently I purchased a video at a mall a couple of blocks from where I live. I walked back out to my my car, started it up, put it in gear, and whack... Some lady who was doing 30-35 mph cut across and through the parking zones and blindsided my car with her van. She came from exactly my blind spot, from a direction I could not have detected and came from a path that no one with any sense would have taken; she must have passed over and thru 2 parking spaces and crossed 50 or so yellow lines (breaking EVERY POSSIBLE rule of parking lot protocol) before she hit me. After reporting the incident to the police and my insurance company, by phone, I got back out to my car to find her telling the police officer that SHE was the one sitting still, and claiming that I WAS THE ONE WHO WAS SPEEDING THRU THE LOT! She had carefully re-parked her van to make it look like she was lawfully proceeding down a driving aisle. When he refused to ticket ME for reckless driving, as she wanted, she stated her intention to sue me for damages and injury. FOR A WRECK SHE, AND HER POOR DRIVING, CAUSED. This is plain evidence that litigation reforms need to take place in this country as well. But it gets worse. The odd thing was she had her mother, (and a neighbor) with her, to corroborate her little fabricated story. I had no (convenient) ILLEGIBLE favorable witnesses, who could testify as to what really happened so if this goes to court, she would probably win due to the lack of any witnesses for me. She almost convinced the cop to write my a reckless driving ticket (until I showed the policeman the skid marks showing she was not where she told him she was, and pointed out to him that MY CAR was the one that was slammed a yard over due to the impact). He still believed most of her story because it was the word of the three of them, against my word. ILLEGIBLE ILLEGIBLE terribly outnumbered. 01-03482

surgery site, but also probably ruptured my L-5/S-1 spinal disk as well. Whatever pain I was in at the time was quadrupled by the wreck. You should have seen me; I was doubled over like a 95 year old for weeks. I now have sciatica again, and my right leg goes out from under me now and then. Since

my physicians utterly refuse to allow me pain medication to control the pain, I am authorizing my neurologist to freeze my spinal nerves to death with liquid nitrogen cryogenic compounds. This, he will do over the next 12 weeks. Unfortunately, I let it slip to my auto insurance company that my doctor insisted I get an MRI after the wreck, and when they discovered I have a disability, the insurance companies demanded to see all my confidential files from every doctor I ever saw, every pain center I've been to. Including group therapy, psych files, internists files, surgeons' records, everything. Nosy xxx's. Do you know what they do with the confidential files, Mr. Stephanopolous? They look for dirt on the patient. NOT medical records. They are not even remotely interested in the medical data. I know. A friend of mine was just in a motor vehicle accident trial, where the insurance co's demanded all her confidential records for a wreck that nearly killed her, and left her with permanent disability. The insurance companies shared her confidential files with the lawyers. (Some teenage punk with a record of speeding tickets, and reckless driving tickets in 4 counties had run a stop sign doing 20+ over the speed limit and totalled her car, nearly killing her). The insurance company lawyers summoned her doctors, including her psychologist, in to court to read their entire charts on her, page by page, appointment by appointment, note by note, out loud, in court, in order to dig up any dirt they could get on her, make her look bad. For a wreck that was not her fault. Naturally they came up with some spicy stuff, because us patients think we're telling our doctors our problems in confidentiality, when they demand to know all the SCOOP on us. What this amounts to is this: I have accumulated well over $100,000 in medical bills with all my surgeries, rehab's, etc. Doctors and rehab units have been paid major money to 'help' me. However, what this little sneaky insurance technique does is hijack MY doctors (and their records) to be used as THEIR private eyes, to suit their ends. The insurance companies use our paid professionals and their charts and files, to betray their own patients, in order to defame us and suit their own purposes. This little procedure uses the people disabled people pay major money to, to dig up the dirt on us. What's wrong with this picture? They put my friend on trial, not the guy who nearly killed her. They put HER MEDICAL RECORDS ON TRIAL, not the reckless driver. They used her problems and medical records and disability AS A WEAPON AGAINST HER, to exonerate the teenager, and his reckless

dangerous driving. The insurance companies used her disability as a weapon, a means to get at personal information to discredit, humiliate, and defame her. They used her disability as a means to assassinate her personality and credibility. In the process, they betrayed her doctors' and her privacy, comprised her confidential treatment, and violated several codes of ethics in the execution of this injustice. Worse, they took what little they found on her personal life, blew it way out of proportion, distorted it, and made up all sorts of bizarre conclusions, concocting all sorts of bizarre allegations to muck up the issue, and get the subject of the trial off the boy's careless driving and focused the trial on my disabled friend's personal life. 01-03483

court by my own words and problems, just like my friend ILLEGIBLE insurance company permission for a release of all medical files, but no personal, confidential data, and they responded with an ugly threatening letter, because they don't want the medical files, they want ability to look for the dirt, not the medical files. Only the disabled, those with substantial medical files, those with serious diseases or injuries are vulnerable for this mistreatment. (To give you an idea of what all these files entitle them to, let me explain: I have been to 4 spinal cord injury rehab programs. In each one, the doctors & therapists ask you every little detail about your childhood, your family, your parents, their parents, your relationships, your adolescence, your dating, every possible aspect of your personal and professional life. All sorts of stuff that is no one's business. The rehab's record all this in precise, incredible detail in the clinic charts. In essence, I have 4 unauthorized biographies floating about in these rehab programs.) Biographies that the insurance companies know contain enough stuff to stir up that their lawyers can make the disabled look like the bad guy and serve any purpose they please, whether to get their bad client off the hook, or to get a judgment placed against the patient, as in my case, for a wreck I did not cause. The non-disabled have NO SUCH FILES that can be hijacked, and insurance companies know it. Only the disabled are subject to this kind of underhandedness. This sneaky subversion. Only the disabled are vulnerable to this kind of duplicitous sneak attack. Regular, non-disabled folks need not fear this abuse, would never imagine that it can happen, but the disabled are set up. We are fair game for this type of technique, and that is why the insurance companies leap to get our

confidential files. We are perfect stooges for them. Powerless, defenseless. It is what we get for trusting our private data with doctors. In my case the insurance companies threatened me, to get me to sign release forms to get the files, but even if I refused to sign releases, they notified me they could obtain the files by subpoena, so I, as other disabled people, had no chance from the beginning moment I slipped and let them know I have a disability. I had no chance from the moment that woman hit my car. It is bad enough to have been struck down by spinal disease, to lose a career, to lose my salary, be in constant pain, but to have this disgrace heaped upon you as well...like I said, I believe this is the lowest form of discrimination possible. I feel the disabled need to have someone to investigate this vile, cynical practice and its appropriateness. I ask you, sir, and our government to check into this, and its legality. This is discriminatory as all get out, and it singles out the disabled in the most gross and despicable manner. And in court, it can turn a trial of a guilt party upside down, and transform it into a trial of the victim. Our system has enough of that already. I ask you and the President to investigate this situation, not for me, but for every single disabled person in this country. The people who this game is targeted against. This is not right. Again, thank you very much for your personal response to my letter. certainly appreciate your taking the time to write me. Best wishes for the future, and for the President's health reforms.. Regards, XX 01-03484