White House Opposes HealthCare.gov Security Bill; House Vote Expected Friday

By Joseph Marks

January 9, 2014

The White House and congressional Democrats slammed Republican legislation on Thursday that would require the government to notify people within two days if their personal data has been stolen from HealthCare.gov, the Obama administration’s online health insurance marketplace.

The legislation “would impose an administratively burdensome reporting requirement that is less effective than existing industry standards and those already in place for federal agencies,” the White House said in a statement.

The bill, slated for debate and a vote on Friday, follows allegations by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and other Republicans that Americans’ personal information is less secure on the Obamacare website than officials have claimed.

Health and Human Services Department officials have said those claims are incorrect. Democrats on the oversight committee have accused Issa of cherry picking information from subpoenaed documents to make security vulnerabilities seem worse than they are or to suggest vulnerabilities that don’t exist.

The subpoenaed documents themselves have not been released as both sides agree they might give hackers a roadmap into the HealthCare.gov system.

“The federal government has already put in place an effective and efficient system for securing personally identifiable information in the health insurance marketplaces and providing consumers notification if their personally identifiable information has been compromised,” the White House said. “When consumers fill out their online marketplace applications, they can trust that the information that they are providing is protected by stringent security standards.”

The White House also noted that HealthCare.gov adheres to the government’s information security standards. There have been no successful breaches of HealthCare.gov to date, according to Health and Human Services officials.

Congressional democrats including the Oversight Committee’s ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., issued a similar statement earlier on Thursday.

Several other measures aimed at rolling back Obamacare also were scheduled for debate in the House on Friday.

HealthCare.gov was nearly un-usable after its Oct. 1, 2013 launch due to about 400 coding glitches and insufficient storage space. The online marketplace has functioned at an acceptable level since Dec. 1 but analysts worry the early troubles may have made consumers wary of the site and could prevent the government from reaching its enrollment goal of 7 million people by the end of March.

If too few people enroll in the marketplace, that could increase risk and raise premiums to unaffordable levels. Concerns about security risks on the website could further depress enrollment. 

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(Image via Maksim Kabakou/Shutterstock.com)

By Joseph Marks

January 9, 2014