The Latest Healthcare Rumor: Microchip ImplantsSeptember 8, 2009 - by Donny Shaw
There’s a new rumor going around about the Democrats’ healthcare bill that’s so absurd and off-base that I hesitate to even bring it up here in order to debunk it. The rumor, which is being spread mostly in online forums and hasn’t yet received any kind of validation from a national political figure, is that the bill would require all Americans to get a microchip embedded in their body so the government can track them.
Or, at least, I think that’s what they are claiming. I’ve seen a few variations, including claims that everyone would need to get the microchips, only people who enroll in the public option would have to get it, and that the bill doesn’t require the implants, but it leaves it open to the government to decide after it is passed if they want to require them. You can view forum threads on the topic here, here, here and here, for examples. The rumor first came to my attention when someone wrote into the OpenCongress Facebook group asking for information on it.
The portion of text people have been referencing to support their claims can be read here, in Title V, Subtitle C – “National Medical Device Registry.” If you read the actual bill text, it’s very clear that this microchip rumor is just completely made up.
What this section of the bill actually does is call on the Secretary of Health and Human Services to “establish a national medical device registry to facilitate analysis of post-market safety and outcomes data” on all Class III medical devices and all “implantable, life-supporting, or life-sustaining” Class II medical devices that have been used on a patient. In other words, it establishes a registry designed to gather data on the effectiveness and safety of the most highly-regulated medical devices.
The key to understanding this section is knowing what these different classes of medical devices are. The Food and Drug Administration has divided up all medical devices that are used on patients into three classes according to their potential to cause harm. Class I devices include things like tongue depressors, latex gloves and handheld surgical instruments. They are subject to very little control from the FDA. Class II devices are a little more sophisticated, but still not subject to a great amount of FDA oversight. They include things like wheelchairs, surgical needles and x-ray machines. Class III devices require the most FDA oversight, including pre-market testing and approval. They include things like implantable pacemakers, silicone breast implants, and replacement heart valves.
The registry that would be set up by the bill is aimed at tracking the safety of Class III devices and some of the most critical, borderline-Class III devices that are technically classified as Class II. The bill specifies Class II devices that are “implantable, life-supporting, or life-sustaining,” which is lifted almost verbatim from the FDA’s own definition of Class III devices. Class III devices “usually sustain or support life, are implanted, or present potential unreasonable risk of illness or injury,” the FDA writes on their website. From my limited knowledge of the matter, Class II devices that would be tracked in registry would include things like dental implants, IV bags and catheters.
This rumor about the bill requiring people to have microchips implanted in them by the government seems to be based on a combination of fear of government, paranoia and simply the appearance of the word “implantable” in the bill text. There’s no real analysis going into the rumor, so it’s hard to come up with a more thorough debunking beyond saying that it’s baseless and simply not in the bill.
For more debunking of false rumors about the healthcare bill see this post linking the rumors to the actual bill text.