The problems associated with the launch of the Obamacare health insurance exchanges have included a major security breach in which the private information of 2,400 insurance agents accidentally was given by the state exchange to an insurance broker’s office.
The information sent out reportedly included Social Security numbers, names and addresses, The Star-Tribune newspaper reported. The article didn’t identify the employee or names of those compromised.
The security breach only came to light because the broker involved, Jim Koester, came forward.
“The more I thought about it, the more troubled I was,” he said. “What if this had fallen into the wrong hands? It’s scary. If this is happening now, how can clients of MNsure be confident their data is safe?”
Koester received an email from a state employee that contained an attachment. When the broker opened the attachment he discovered page after page of information about insurance agents.
The incident might be even scarier than Koester said because the reason for the email is not known. Jim Koester said he was trying to get trained as a navigator – that is, an insurance agent who is trained and authorized to sign individuals up for Obamacare. Koester had been having trouble registering with MNsure (the Minnesota health insurance exchange).
Jim Koester said that MNsure employees had contacted him and helped him to delete the files from his computer. It isn’t clear if there will be any sort of investigation of this incident.
Obamacare Privacy Nightmare
This incident seems to justify critics of Obamacare such as Steven T. Parente, a professor of health finance at the University of Minnesota, who specializes in insurance issues. Parente has been warning that there are inadequate privacy safeguards in Obamacare for months.
“If you think identity theft is a problem, now wait until Uncle Sam serves up critical information on 300 million American citizens on a platter,” Parente and Paul Howard wrote in a USA Today Op-Ed piece last year. Parente believes that Obamacare will lead to the creation of a massive federal database containing information on tens of millions of exchange customers.
The biggest threat will be in those states where the federal government is running the exchanges, Parente believes. Many states including Texas and Nebraska have refused to participate in Obamacare. In those states the federal Department of Health and Human Services is running the exchanges.
Massive Federal Database
The backbone of the federal exchanges is a massive database of information about Obamacare recipients and applicants, Parente noted. Many federal agencies including the IRS and the Department of Homeland Security have access to that database.
Steven T. Parente thinks that the federal exchange could become a privacy disaster. State exchanges also could also be a disaster, as the Minnesota incident demonstrates. When the exchanges opened for business on Tuesday, numerous glitches and problems were reported.
Many of the exchanges’ websites crashed because they couldn’t handle the number of visitors they received. Also, many of the state websites reported “glitches” that prevented people from using them.
News articles show that the cause of the glitches was poor preparation and lack of planning. Neither the federal nor state governments were prepared for the launch even though they knew it was coming for months.
So what can average citizens do? Well, you can refuse to participate in Obamacare. You can simply pay the tax penalties for not having health insurance, or you buy your own health insurance.
If you feel you must participate, perhaps you should wait a few weeks until the bugs are worked out of the system.