Obamacare now raising privacy concerns
Attorney General Buddy Caldwell announced Thursday that Louisiana and 12 other states have sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) expressing grave concerns about consumers’ private information being protected under the new health insurance exchanges that are set to go into effect this fall.
The letter to Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says privacy protection measures written into HHS’s rules governing programs that assist consumers with enrolling in the new health care exchanges are woefully inadequate. The exchanges were created as part of the Affordable Care Act.
Attorney General Caldwell said, “HHS rules promise that training will be ‘extensive’, but officials with the agency have already cut back on the required hours of training from 30 to 20 online hours because there isn’t enough time to do extensive training before the health insurance exchanges open. That is exactly the wrong approach and will simply lead to more problems.” Caldwell added that this is especially a concern for our state because Louisiana’s Constitution grants its citizens some of the strongest privacy rights in the country.
The ACA provides funding for groups, such as navigators, to help consumers enroll in health insurance plans. As part of that process, these navigators and other assistance personnel will have significant access to consumers’ private and personal data. However, the letter states that HHS’s rules fail to ensure that navigators will be adequately trained to safeguard data provided by consumers. Nor do the rules make clear who is responsible if an identity theft occurs.
Even more concerning for the attorneys general is that the rule does not require criminal background checks of potential navigator hires and does not list any prior criminal acts as being disqualifiers for someone seeking to work with consumers.
Attorney General Caldwell said, “Each person collecting information is being placed in a position of trust and will have access to a wide variety of personal information from consumers. Therefore, HHS must implement an on-the-ground plan to secure consumer information, follow up on complaints, and work with law enforcement to prosecute bad counselors. Otherwise this is a disaster waiting to happen.”
In their letter, the attorneys general raise eight areas of concern and ask HHS a series of questions about steps the agency will take to ensure citizens are protected. The attorneys general ask HHS to respond to their questions by August 28, 2013.
Attorneys general in West Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas joined in the letter.
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