As we get ready to start the new year I have serious concerns. At the top of the list is personal privacy and the potential for fraud within the central system designed to implement the benefits offered by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka, “ObamaCare”).
For decades seniors have complained about, and suffered from, the fraud that runs rampant through the Medicare program. At the root of the problem is a serious lack of security protecting social security numbers. Every year, tens of thousands of seniors fall victim to identity theft, and the tax payers get soaked to the tune of $60 million, or more. Regardless of the efforts by the Justice Department to round up the bad guys, the federal government has failed to deal with the root problem. The fraud persists.
Now, as the Health Insurance Exchanges (HIX) — the crown jewel of ObamaCare – speed towards opening day on 1 October, 2013, only a small number of states have their projects budgeted, staffed and making progress. Among the states plowing forward is California, with a history of massive project failures at the Health and Welfare Agency.
The fail-safe plan for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is a centralized HIX system that will provide exchange services for the states that opt-out of developing their own (and the states that fail to create one successfully). Although HHS has experience creating large, web-based systems for the Medicare program (e.g., Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D Drug Plans), this is the first time it will attempt to pull personal information about 300 million people from a myriad of agencies, including the IRS, Social Security Administration, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and the state tax boards.
The data gathering is sensible, in the abstract. Similar information is collected when you apply for a mortgage. But when the constantly updated information is combined in a central data hub, the potential for abuse is staggering. For one thing, the hub will have all the details needed to steal identities and fraudulently access credit.
The data gathering is necessary. Similar information is collected about you when you apply for a home loan. However, when constantly changing data is centrally maintained, the opportunity for abuse is mind blowing, and could make the Medicare fraud problem look like child’s play.
The new HHS central database will have all of the information the government needs to determine eligibility. That means it will have everything thieves need to steal your identity and fraudulently access your credit. Without the proper security measures in place, it’s a ticking time bomb.
With an incredibly short time frame to develop the federal health insurance exchange, is the data in the central database guaranteed to be secure? I sure hope so.