Lawmaker: ACA-mandated data hub a privacy nightmare

A data services hub mandated by the Affordable Care Act that will be used to connect state health insurance exchanges with federal agencies poses a significant threat to privacy and security, one Republican lawmaker said this week.

In an opinion piece published in U.S. News & World Report, Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) called the potential for abuse of information to be stored on the hub "staggering." The hub will contain personal information, including medical records and tax and financial information.

"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 ... Is this what President Obama meant by being the most transparent administration in U.S. history?" 

A recently published Government Accountability Office report called the hub a significant challenge in launching insurance marketplaces. In particular, officials from six states reported that developing business rules for the marketplaces was difficult due to a lack of complete information on the requirements of the hub.

"States said, by and large: We're doing the best we can. … We think we're going to be ready, but it's anybody's guess because it's so evolving, especially with the data services hub," Stan Czerwinski, one of the report's authors, told Governing. "State systems have to connect with federal systems, which are still being developed. The challenge is hooking into these systems without knowing what they will look like."

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.

"With control over billions in federal dollars and even greater access to personal information, HHS and IRS with the aid of the Data Hub are well positioned to carry out the president's left wing agenda through coercion and harassment of its enemies and rewards for its allies," Black said.

To learn more:
- here's the opinion piece
- here's the GAO report (.pdf)
- read the Governing story
- check out Black's bill (.pdf)