Politics

California’s ObamaCare exchange breech security

California's ObamaCare exchange breech security

There are going to be some epic data theft and hacking stories to come from the sad history of ObamaCare.  They’re probably already happening.  There has been a repeated history of both state and federal authorities concealing security breaches until forced to discuss them by freedom-of-information requests.  These authorities are keenly aware of what a few big hacking stories will do to a system that’s already far less popular than it needs to be, with a reputation for technological ineptitude among the young people it desperately needs to milk for cash.

But the hackers will have to get in line behind the ObamaCare system’s tendency to create its own security breaches by coughing up hairballs of sensitive data… and officials who abuse the personal information of consumers before hackers get a shot at it.  The latest story comes from California, courtesy of the L.A. Times:

Raising concerns about consumer privacy, California’s health exchange has given insurance agents the names and contact information for tens of thousands of people who went online to check out coverage but didn’t ask to be contacted.

The Covered California exchange said it started handing out this consumer information this week as part of a pilot program to help people enroll ahead of a Dec. 23 deadline to have health insurance in place by Jan. 1.

State officials said they are only trying to help potential customers find insurance and sign up in time. But some insurance brokers and consumers who were contacted said they were astonished by the state’s move.

“I’m shocked and dumbfounded,” said Sam Smith, an Encino insurance broker and president of the California Assn. of Health Underwriters, an industry group.

Smith said he was under the impression from the exchange that these consumers had requested assistance. He received the names of two consumers this week but has not yet contacted them.

“These people would have a legitimate complaint,” Smith said.

Awww… they’re just trying to help.  You’re too dumb to understand the cornucopia of marvelous benefits that could be pouring into your in-box, so the geniuses who administer the Peoples’ Glorious Five Year Plan will just disregard your unfortunate and ill-considered refusal to give them permission to share your data with the “right people.”  Spam is good for you, when it comes from government-approved sources.

The executive director of the exchange summed it up with one of those beautifully twisted sentences our Ruling Class has been prone to uttering in the Age of Obama, a mixture of maternal concern, unjustified optimism, and creepy elitism as inappropriate as a “1984″ Happy Meal with Room 101 box art and a Big Brother collectible toy tucked between the Chicken McNuggets and apple slices: “I can imagine some people may be upset.  But I can see a lot of people will be comforted and relieved at getting the help they need to navigate a confusing process.”

“Confusing process?”  Weren’t we promised, by everyone up to and including President Obama, that this whole thing would be a swift, easy, and efficient as buying a plane ticket at Travelocity or Orbitz?  Do those companies give away your personal information without permission, so that helpful travel agents can contact you and guide you through the confusing process of booking a flight to Florida for the annual Swamp Cabbage Festival?

Anyone who had even minimal contact with the California exchange is a potential victim.  Basically, if you gave them your name, address, and phone number, they’re going to spread it around as they see fit.

The names provided include people who started an insurance application on the Covered California website since enrollment launched Oct. 1, but for whatever reason never picked a health plan or completed the sign-up process.

The state said it provided information on tens of thousands of people who logged into the state’s website, but it didn’t know the exact number.

The exchange said agents were given names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses if available.

No other information on the application, such as Social Security numbers, income and other personal details, was shared, according to the exchange.

People who never completed the sign-up process?  Why, Barack Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius refer to those people as “enrollees.”  They’re counted in the absurdly inflated, but still horribly inadequate, enrollment factoids the Administration spits out.  You can’t just rummage through the ObamaCare disaster on a casual shopping expedition.  You belong to the system as soon as you give it a tiny scrap of data.

I guess we’ll just have to take the assurances of the exchange administrators that only names, addresses, and phone numbers are being passed around, despite the fact that no sane person would take the word of anyone associated with ObamaCare about anything at this point.  You’ll also be comforted to know that the California exchange administrators secured pinky-swear promises that none of this data would be used for any purpose other than hectoring people into buying overpriced Affordable Care Act insurance.

The rest of the L.A. Times article is a combination of angry complaints about privacy violations from consumers, and assurances from officials and insurance executives that nobody is complaining about the violation of their privacy.  Most curious is the justification for handing off this data to insurance agents, even though much of it comes from people who obviously abandoned the exchange as soon as they got a look at its prices, leaving behind the “never picked a health plan” data trail that has now been passed along to ObamaCare bounty hunters:

Through mid-November, Covered California signed up nearly 80,000 people in private health plans and an additional 140,000 people qualified for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program.

But the state has been struggling to deal with a surge of applicants ahead of the Dec. 23 deadline, with many people expressing frustration with long wait times and website problems. Open enrollment continues through March 31.

In light of those concerns, [Covered California Executive Director Peter] Lee said, the state wanted to offer more assistance to people through its network of 7,700 insurance agents who are trained and certified to enroll people.

Wait a second, I’m confused… I thought all that stuff was fixed.  Didn’t we just have a Thanksgiving weekend full of high-fives between ObamaCare officials and credulous reporters, celebrating the triumphant news that every single goal set for the November 30 relaunch was missed, and badly, but it’s all good because everything is working so much better now?  How can there still be widespread complaints about “long wait times and website problems?”

Of course, there still are such problems, at both federal and state levels.  This system remains a full-blown disaster; it’s still not ready for prime time.  All of the “workarounds” offered by President Obama were just time-wasting political ploys, designed to squeeze him out from beneath the crushing pressure of bad headlines and snowballing public anger.

In fact, The Hill reported over the weekend that the Administration is now warning people not to submit paper applications – a technique President Obama touted in the same “ShamWow” press conference where he told everyone to call an 800 number that doesn’t work, either – because there isn’t time to process them.  Well, some of the Administration says to stop using paper applications; others are saying they work great and there’s still plenty of time to process them.  The answer you get depends on whether the official in question is trying to pretend that Healthcare.gov is “fixed.”

Bottom line: it’s crunch time, panic is setting in, and officials are desperate to both pump up the enrollment counts for media consumption, and avoid an explosion of outrage from people who lost the coverage Barack Obama swore they would be able to keep, and couldn’t buy replacement coverage, even if they decided they could handle the sticker shock.

Update: Hey, at least the California exchange has your information.  Not so in Minnesota, where “at this late date, the health plan companies do not have most of the names or information on individuals who have enrolled through MNsure,” according to a report from Kaiser Health News.

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