Rob Douglas: Udall’s Affordable Care Act security concerns

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On Wednesday, while folks in Routt County were absorbing Tuesday’s election results, Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet were in a private meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House.

Rob Douglas

Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Douglas here.

Udall and Bennet — along with 14 other Senate Democrats whose political fortunes in 2014 are closely tied to the Affordable Care Act — were vocalizing their concerns about a range of problems arising from the rollout of the law.

On Thursday, the angst that drove Udall and Bennet to the White House must have grown when they saw The Denver Post headline, “Nearly 250,000 Colorado health policies canceled, many from Obamacare.”

According to the Post, “Insurance companies are canceling health policies for nearly 250,000 Coloradans, many because of Affordable Care Act rules, a tally likely to inflame consumers upset with controversial reforms. … Only 3,408 Coloradans have enrolled in the private insurance plans offered on a new state exchange, the conservative advocacy group Compass Colorado said.”

With the Post pointing out, “Consumer advocates who welcome health reform said it will take time to decipher whether the cancellations represent disaster or simply transition,” it’s worth noting Udall and Bennet signed a letter in October calling on Obama to extend the new health care law’s enrollment period.

“Given the existing problems with healthcare.gov and other state-run marketplace websites that depend on the federally administered website, we urge you to consider extending open enrollment beyond the current end date of March 31, 2014. Extending this period will give consumers critical time in which to become familiar with the website and choose a plan that is best for them. Individuals should not be penalized for lack of coverage if they are unable to purchase health insurance due to technical problems.”

With that background, let’s circle back to Wednesday’s White House meeting and the less publicized concern Udall left on Obama’s doorstep.

After leaving the White House and reiterating his call for Obama to extend the enrollment period, Udall added, “I also told the president that, for the Affordable Care Act to succeed, consumers need to be confident their personal information is secure. We need to do everything in our power to protect the online marketplace from hackers and cyberattacks.”

Fleshing out his statement, Udall sent a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. After pointing out that “reasonable concerns” repeatedly have been raised about security testing of the “federal data services hub” and the new online health insurance marketplaces, Udall wrote:

“While Administrator (Marilyn) Tavenner testified on Nov. 5, 2013, that the datahub seems to be working adequately and safely, alarming stories have emerged explaining the ease with which a low-skilled hacker with bad intentions could intercept Americans’ personal information on the new health system. For example, a software tester from Arizona found that a hacker could potentially commandeer a consumer’s account, change the password, uncover the personal security responses and locate the consumer’s email address.

“I was happy to learn that this security lapse was swiftly identified and corrected. Security breaches such as this negatively impact the confidence that Coloradans and all Americans may have in the overall protection of their personal information.”

On Thursday, I asked Mike Saccone, Udall’s communications director, whether questions about the security of the federal data hub constitute another reason to delay the enrollment deadline. Saccone said Udall wants to be “doubly sure personal information is protected,” but he doesn’t think a delay is warranted at this point based on security alone. Saccone said Udall “flagged this privacy concern,” but his current call for a delay is based on the technical issues that have prevented Americans from accessing the federal health care website.

As to the length of the delay, Saccone said, Udall wants to wait until the “technical problems with www.healthcare.gov are fixed” before taking a definitive position.

Having worked with Congress on threats to personal information maintained in private and public databases, I find it encouraging that Udall, who has shown leadership on other privacy issues, is focused on the security aspects of the new law.

Given the scope of the threats posed by hackers and identity thieves, Udall should make certain the federal data hub truly is secure before agreeing to the enforcement of any enrollment period on Coloradans.

To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

Comments

Dan Kuechenmeister 5 months, 1 week ago

Iran may keep their Nukes. U.S. Citizens may not be able to keep their health insurance.

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rhys jones 5 months, 1 week ago

Nothing exposed to this medium is totally secure. The mice are at least as smart as the cats. For the hacker it's a matter of work vs reward. What might be the incentive?

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mark hartless 5 months, 1 week ago

Isn't it funny how these vermin usher in these laws and then feign outrage when they don't work out?

I heard one of these congress-critters say something the other day that sounded familliar. They said, "the PLAN was good. The problem was in the EXECUTION."

I pondered that a moment... where had I heard that before???

Then it came to me... That's exactly what Stalin, Hitler said.

Communists have, for a century, argued that communism would work if only the people would embrace it as entusiastically as their would-be rulers. So convinced were they that "the plan was good but it failed because of poor execution" that it led them, along with Mao Tse-tung, ti kill 150 million people in the last century.

I wonder how far the American Sheeple will allow their WAY out-of-control government to go to prove that "the plan is perfect" and that the flaw is in the execution"???

When something blows up in a politician's face they feign outrage to keep the party from fracturing... like when Chairman Mao said "Inner-Party criticism is a weapon for strengthening the Party organization and increasing its fighting capacity."

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rhys jones 5 months, 1 week ago

No comment about the ruling class; this just seemed the likeliest thread to poach:

Happy Birthday Jarheads!! 238 today. The Corps is older than the Farce -- er, Union.

Semper Fi!! Ooh RAH!!

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rhys jones 5 months, 1 week ago

Some famous Americans, commenting on my guys:

http://allenbwest.com/2013/11/ooh-rah-semper-fi-happy-birthday/

They left out the most famous Marine quote of all. Col. Chesty Puller, when informed the Army had retreated and the Marines were surrounded by half a million Chinese, said

"Good. That means they CAN'T get away."

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mark hartless 5 months ago

Great news!!! So far about 50,000 people have signed up for Obama-Care!

However, over 5 million have had their health insurance canceled.

Boy, what a great deal!

Wonder where all those proud leftists went that were telling us all how great life was gonna' be once Obama "fixed" our healthcare system? Don't hear much from them these days.

Joseph Goebbels has some real competition in Obama, and the American electorate is starting to make the German people of the 1920's look perspicacious.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 5 months ago

According to a CBS report Henry Chao Healthcare.gov's chief project manager at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was "apparently kept in the dark about serious failures in the website's security. Those failures could lead to identity theft among buying insurance." According to a government memo written Sept. 3rd that Chao reportedly was unaware of, "the threat and risk potential (to the system) is limitless. Combine this with the news that there are "navigators" helping direct consumers to the ACA information and possibly helping them to sign up and thus getting the consumers sensitive personal information that may not have had to go through any kind of background check and you really have to question why the ACA is being implemented in such a haphazard fashion. Here is a link to the report. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57611858/memo-warned-of-limitless-security-risks-for-healthcare.gov/

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