Along with that work is going gigabytes of private patient data--information so sensitive that it could be used to deny someone a job or make them ineligible for life insurance. There's a widely held myth that federal regulations like HIPAA prevent that sort of data from going abroad. That's not the case. As long as the foreign processing company adheres to U.S. rules concerning privacy and security, it's permitted.
So should we demand that our congressmen outlaw the offshoring of medical data? Consider this first: Is it any worse to have a nosy claims processor in Delhi gossiping about your medical history than one in, say, Hartford--the latter being a person who's more likely to actually know someone you know? To boot, many Indian business and tech services firms maintain tighter security procedures than some of their U.S. counterparts. They know that one major privacy breach could sink them.
Finally, offshoring to low-cost countries like India offers a potential salve to the growing crisis in this country around medical expenses. Costs are skyrocketing and many employers--GM, for example--are cutting staff in part because they can no longer afford all those insurance premiums. One thing is for certain: The United States must find ways to curb the skyrocketing cost of health care. Offshore outsourcing is at least worth a long look as part of the solution. Or does the whole thing just make you too uncomfortable?