Member Spotlight: Twila Brase of the Citizens' Council for Health Freedom

Michael Miller  ·  Apr 30, 2017

One day in the 1990s, Twila Brase was called into the principal’s office over health care freedom.

A school nurse at the time, Twila was trying to alert teachers to the dangers of the “Health Security Act” proposed by the Clinton administration.

Not long after, she started alerting Americans in general to the dangers of government intrusion into health care as the co-founder and president of Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom and the host of the daily radio feature “Health Freedom Minute.”

CCHF works to “protect health care choices, individualized patient care, and medical and genetic privacy rights.” The council works on such issues as patient privacy, individualized patient care, the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, government newborn screening, and state “Baby DNA” storage.

“Our plan is to transition everything in health care back to freedom,” Twila says.

When Twila was a school nurse in Minneapolis-St. Paul in the early 1990s, she became aware of the Clinton administration’s effort to impose a universal health care plan. That clashed with her love of freedom and privacy, and she began to study the issue.

“I realized that if the government took control of the health care system, it would take control of people’s lives and be the beginning of the end of freedom in this country,” Twila says.

She decided to educate the teachers at the three schools she worked at with a “packet about what the Health Security Act would do.”

“I had copied all these news articles,” she says. “I feel like that was a first step, and it’s been forward ever since.”

In the principal’s office, she was told that she couldn’t pass around “things like that.”

Some time after that meeting, Twila started passing around “things like that” in an even bigger way. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune published an op-ed she wrote in May 1994, which resulted in connections that led to the formation of what was then called the Citizens for Choice in Health Care. By March 1995, she had left behind her school nurse job to work full time for the new organization.

She hasn’t been called into the principal’s office since.

Twila, a registered nurse, sees CCHF’s mission as one that protects not only freedom, but the profession of healing, which comes from God Himself.

“Jesus was the great physician, so this is a precious profession,” she says. “This is not a profession to be exploited. When the patient is at their most vulnerable, we should be protecting them.”

Twila also says integrity in health care has been compromised by government intrusion.

“Part of our mission is individualized patient care, because we look at every patient as being unique,” she says. “But government health care says we can standardize the practice of medicine and forget the uniqueness of the patient, all the way down to the patient’s DNA. Standardized medicine does not recognize unique, God-given characteristics, personality, preferences, or genetics of patients. It makes every person a widget. ”

At the beginning of her mission, Twila was concerned that, even though the Clintons’ health care plan failed at the federal level, states like her native Minnesota began adopting elements of it, and other parts, particularly related to patient data, found their way into federal legislation. For instance, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in 1996 to create “standards for the electronic exchange, privacy and security of health information.”

“The law required the Clinton administration to set privacy requirements if Congress failed to write a privacy law, so the so-called HIPAA privacy rule was issued. Between the law and this permissive rule, almost everybody has access to our data without our consent, unless a state legislature writes a stronger privacy law,” Twila says. (Find out about 10 harmful ways government can intrude and use your data here.)

The federal government lists 2.2 million entities with HIPAA-enabled access to medical data without patient consent if those holding the data, such as the doctor or the hospital, agree to share it. This number does not include the federal, state, and local government agencies that also have access. Most patients, Twila says, think that signing the HIPAA privacy form or the acknowledgement of the Notice of Privacy Practices (NPP) means their privacy is protected. However, their signature only acknowledges that the patient understands how broadly their information can be shared without their consent. Brase encourages people to read the forms and the NPP before they sign.

“HIPAA is one of the largest deceptions foisted on the American people, and it’s a danger to patients and medical ethics,” Twila says. “We often say ‘He who holds the data makes the rules.’ One of our key targets is to bring back real privacy, which means to bring back consent, so we have several projects in this theme.”

The organization is working to prohibit coercive consent forms, including HIPAA. CCHF encourages patients to decline to sign HIPAA forms or acknowledgments that they have received a HIPAA notice, which is perfectly legal to do, and to send CCHF copies of these forms.

Coercive consent forms often come as a “bundled consent” in states where state law actually requires consent. These forms have only one signature required to agree to treatment, payment, the NPP, and data-sharing such as for research or “health care operations,” a HIPAA term with a 390-word definition.

“Patients want to sign for treatment and payment, but they don’t want to agree to the rest and they don’t know if they can cross out what they don’t like,” Twila says. “You feel that in order to get treated, there’s nothing to do except sign, because if you don’t sign, sometimes they’ll tell you they can’t treat you, which is just wrong.”

The federal government acknowledges online that patients can refuse to sign the HIPAA form, Twila says, and she wants patients to know it. She also encourages patients to cross out objectionable parts of consent forms and to contact CCHF if care is being denied.

Other CCHF projects include:

  • The Wedge of Health Freedom (“The Wedge”), the effort to restore affordability and confidentiality through direct payment that Twila wrote about in the October 2016 issue of Samaritan’s Christian Health Care Newsletter. The Wedge provides DPC and other third-party free doctors a way to let potential patients know where they are, and patients a way to find them. (jointhewedge.com)
  • RefusetoEnroll.org—CCHF makes Americans aware of three legal alternatives to ACA enrollment.
  • Affordable Care Act Repeal—CCHF is pushing for the full repeal of the ACA and a return to individual and state control over health care.
  • Medicare Freedom—Twila is pushing for the creation of an escape hatch, since Medicare Part A (hospitalization) is now linked to Social Security. A Clinton administration rule says you lose access to Social Security benefits if you fail to enroll in Medicare Part A and a Bush administration rule requires repayment of all benefits from Medicare and Social Security if you disenroll. Getting rid of the rule and allowing senior citizens to opt out would not only protect seniors from rationing, but decrease the $48 trillion unfunded liability, which Cato Institute says could swell to $88 trillion with double-digit health care inflation.
  •  Baby DNA—All states offer and many states mandate newborn screening, in which the newborn’s heel is pricked and the blood specimen sent to the state health department for newborn (genetic) screening, without written parent consent. Religious exemptions are allowed in 33 states, and 13 other states offer exemptions for any reason, but most parents don’t know. Some states store the child’s blood sample (DNA) indefinitely, others for a couple months. Newborn DNA has been given away, sold, and used for barter and genetic research. CCHF’s efforts to end the warehousing of newborn DNA have led to parent lawsuits in three states. Collections of newborn DNA in Texas and Minnesota have been destroyed. More information, including opt-out parent forms for several states, is at cchfreedom.org.
  •  Health Freedom Minute—A radio spot which airs weekdays on 782 stations in 47 states. Episodes typically include a “nugget of news” and an occasional call to action. Twila says she frequently lets her listeners know about health care sharing. “I am probably one of your strongest promoters,” she says.

When she’s not working on health care freedom, Twila is “engaged in maintaining family and friend relationships.” She doesn’t get to take part in as many outdoor activities as she did before CCHF, like canoeing, skydiving, or white water rafting, although sailing, hiking, and camping are still frequently on her schedule.

She does travel a lot, but now it’s mostly on CCHF business.

“The more busy this office has gotten, the less time I have,” she says. “We have a growth strategy here because we have become too busy. So, we’re working on adding more staff.”

In the meantime, Twila and CCHF need help from patients. People can:

  • Send HIPAA and other consent forms perceived as being coercive to the CCHF office.
  • File a formal federal HIPAA complaint if denied service for not signing a consent form.
  • Share information with others about options like The Wedge and health care sharing.
  • Encourage state legislators to pass true privacy laws with patient consent requirements.
  • Encourage Congress to vote for a full repeal of the ACA.
  • Check out cchfreedom.org for privacy newborn screening options before having a child.
  • If you want to pursue litigation to stop state storage of Baby DNA, contact CCHF.