GOP to Sebelius: ACA data hub raises privacy concerns

In a letter sent to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last Friday, 16 Republican lawmakers raised concerns about the data services hub to be used to connect state health insurance exchanges with federal agencies.

The lawmakers took issue with the fact that to date, the hub has not been tested, and that HHS has missed "several key deadlines" for the implementation of the insurance exchanges. "It remains unclear whether it will be operable and able to protect sensitive health and taxpayer information," the lawmakers wrote. "[T]he Federal Data Services Hub raises many serious privacy concerns."

One lawmaker who signed the letter--Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee--brought up similar concerns in an opinion piece published last month in U.S. News & World Report. In that piece, she called the potential for abuse of information to be stored on the hub "staggering."

"Despite being only four months from Obamacare open enrollment, even the most basic questions about the Data Hub have yet to be answered," Black said. "For instance, which agencies will have access to what information in it; will government employees, contractors and third parties have access; and what training and security clearances--if any--are required for these individuals?"

In May, Black, last month, introduced a bill to Congress--the "Stopping Government Abuse of Taxpayer Information Act"--that would require any agency with access to the hub to ensure that information stored on the hub would not be used to target groups or individuals based on their beliefs.

The lawmakers requested that HHS respond to the letter by July 12 with a briefing on "the current status" of the hub, including information on how it will ensure the protection of sensitive data.

To learn more:
- read the letter (.pdf)

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