Going Direct: BasicMed: Privacy Questions Linger

How private is your application information, and can the FAA use it against you?

We live in a polarized world, so I wasn’t too surprised that responses were bunched on both sides of the spectrum regarding my disappointment at the “driver’s license” medical we got in the form of BasicMed. While some readers applauded my tell-it-like-it-is look at this new approach to pilot medical certification, others were adamant that I was too negative in not cheering for this change.

Believe me, I’d love to be thrilled with the new process, and I would be...if it were what we were promised originally, but it’s not. We all expected the new approach to the third-class medical to be just like the Sport Pilot medical, a true driver’s license medical that we’re personally in charge of overseeing. No doctor visits, no FAA looking over our shoulder, no filling in long forms detailing our medical histories. But instead we get all of the bad stuff with BasicMed and not enough of the LSA Sport Pilot good stuff.

When you step back a few yards and look at BasicMed, it appears almost indistinguishable from the third class medical process. You fill out your medical history, you visit a doctor, the doctor examines you, the doctor says “yes” or “no” to your application, and you carry around a piece of paper that shows you went through the process. There is, in fact, an additional hurdle with BasicMed that the traditional process lacks, the requirement to complete an online education course. I’m not saying if the course is bad or good, but it is an extra step.

I admit that the costs will be low, in some cases negligible for some pilots, but it will cost about the same or be slightly more expensive than a visit to the aviation medical examiner for others. But again, that’s a matter of degree and not essence.

What I want is simple: to have nothing to do with the FAA when it comes to my medical certification, to use my driver’s license, go to the airport and go flying. Basically, I want the government out of my medical life when it comes to flying small airplanes. With Light Sport Aircraft, I get that. With BasicMed, not even close.

There is one big advantage to BasicMed, and that is you can get by with several conditions that an AME would find disqualifying, or prompt a request for a special issuance. For pilots affected by the absurdly strict disqualification guidelines for a third-class medical, BasicMed is a godsend. For the rest of us, again, not so much.

And there appear to be risks that no one is talking about. The biggest is this: How might the FAA use the information we supply on our BasicMed applications to come after our pilot’s certificates? The FAA documentation on the subject is vague, seemingly intentionally so. They say that Congress mandated that the FAA get data on pilots who apply for BasicMed but refrain from saying what that data is. When I asked a representative from AOPA if, to the best of his understanding, the FAA could pursue enforcement action against a pilot based on his or her BasicMed application, the answer they gave was, yes, in certain circumstances, it could. I’m still waiting for answers to my follow up questions on the subject.

Lots of pilots hate the FAA form because they feel that little white lies about their medial history put them at great risk, and they’re right. While the FAA seldom pursues legal action against pilots for false statements on their medical forms, when they have, it was with felony prosecutions.

So, could the FAA match up BasicMed application forms with previous FAA medical application forms to see if there are any discrepancies? And does BasicMed make a pilot’s health record a matter of public record? This history includes visits to regular doctors, and to hospitals, the treatment received, prescriptions given, and treatment recommended, all information that normally is protected from government snooping by HIPPA. Does BasicMed continue to provide pilots this protection?

We don’t know, though we’re asking. And the answers to these questions, it seems to me, are critical for pilots weighing the decision to go with BasicMed or to stick to the clunky but well understood old approach to medical certification.


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6 thoughts on “Going Direct: BasicMed: Privacy Questions Linger

  1. Mr. Goyer:

    While I agree with many of your points relating to BasicMed and the unresolved issues created by it, I feel the need to clarify an issue with respect to an airman’s completion of the current application for medical certificate. Your statement that “[w]hile the FAA seldom pursues legal action against pilots for false statements on their medical forms, when they have, it was with felony prosecutions” is inaccurate. In almost all cases of where the FAA discovers that an airman made a false statement on his or her medical application, the FAA will pursue legal enforcement action to revoke all of the airman’s certificates (both pilot and medical). It is unusual for the FAA to refer a falsification case out for prosecution. Although it is possible, and does occasionally happen, it is not the norm.

  2. I am very glad that you wrote this very FACTUAL and to the point article. I have been saying the exact same thing to many of the pilots that I know. They all think that this new rule is the great savior of anyone with a medical issue when in actuality, it has done little to nothing other than to move the burden to a different place. Those that think otherwise are fooling no one but themselves. Those with an SI are probably the largest segment that think this is like a miracle drug, their cure and relief of losing their medical. GA is dying a slow and over regulated death. I see the majority of our younger generation dealing with an already over regulated life. When I talk to and ask them about possibly getting into aviation, the great percentage tell me they have little to no desire to deal with more regulation in their life and will spend their hard earned money on other pursuits. Sad as it may be, only those with great conviction and drive are willing to take up the chance to fly.

  3. Mr Moyer, I agree with you 100 percent all this is FAA Medical on steroids. It’s a crock. So if you had a medical procedure or issue then it’s special issuance time funny I don’t need to do that to drive my car

  4. Mr Moyer,
    You’re correct in that BasicMed is a godsend for us special issuance folks. In my case, It saves thousands on stress and blood tests costs annually and the delays that come with it. A few years ago there was a 4 month delay in my renewal due to lack of cardiac specialists at the FAA and a new computer system being installed. It’s a monkey off my back and I applaud
    AOPA for their efforts.

  5. I don’t understand the comment by Greg Reigel at all. You are contradicting Mr Goyer by confirming his statement. Lol. He did not say the FAA frequently criminally prosecutes airmen for false statements–he said they “seldom” do. Do you want to be one of the seldom few who ends up with a federal felony conviction from an overzealous FAA prosecution because you forgot something from 40 years ago? The medical application is a nothing but a big gotcha with questions like “have you ever in your life…”. Some years back, they cross referenced social security records with pilot records, highly illegally, may I add, and prosecuted people for false statements. One gentleman was hiv positive and probably didn’t want to be discriminated against and vilified by disclosing his hiv status, so he did not disclose it to the FAA. He is now a convicted felon. The FAA is full of self important egotists who can’t wait to put the screws to anyone. We all thought medical reform was going to end the witch hunt for private aviation. Unfortunately, this so called reform is as worthless as the paper it’s written on. Mr Goyer is 100% correct.

  6. Dear Bob,
    I agree with the sentiments expressed in your editorial and this blog. However, you are pointing a finger of shame at the wrong culprit! It was not the FAA who fashioned this beast, but rather it was Senator Jim Inhofe and his co-sponsors with a little help on the side from AOPA. The FAA actually changed almost nothing in the language of POBR2 as it reflected the will of most of Congress.

    All of the brouhaha may come to naught anyway since it seems there is an unresolved issue with medico-legal liability and so far, surveys of physicians and large medical organizations seem to show that most doctors will not sign the attestation as required. This is a complicated issue which does not apply to FAA designated AME who work for the FAA.

    There is also an issue about the future of general aviation which seems to be dying a slow death. AOPA chose to support an initiative favored by a few angry old pilots because they are good donors. Cost of flight time and training, and lack of interest are what prevents new young recruits to our ranks, not the boogeyman of future medical regulations. In exchange for POBR2, AOPA has, it seems, agreed to acquiesce to privatization and monetization of ATC. Look at Canada and the EU to see the future of GA under such systems.

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