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Many Americans think the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects their medical privacy, but federal bureaucrats issue thousands of subpoenas every year without prior judicial approval to get around the law.

“If you don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy against government in your medical care, then where does it exist at all? If that’s not private, then what is?” Adam Bates, a criminal justice policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Congress passed HIPAA in 1996 with a promise that it would clamp down on waste, fraud and abuse in the health care industry and safeguard patient privacy. But HIPAA allows federal bureaucrats to get patient records merely by issuing administrative subpoenas, or civil investigative demands.

These bureaucratic edicts bypass the Fourth Amendment’s requirement that a judge must give prior approval before government can search or take an individual’s property. Officials with the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Inspector General and the Department of Justice (DOJ) thus have access to any records they believe to be “relevant” in cases of alleged health care fraud.

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