More state level Obamacare trouble, this time in Maryland (Part 1). A severe flaw in the state’s already defective healthcare exchange may cost the state $30.5 million. It seems the exchange can’t translate income information (from current data) to calculations required to check whether Medicaid enrollees are qualified. Yet, Maryland plans to remain with the exchange, at least through through the open enrollment period that ends March 31. As for the current Medicaid enrollment system, one alternative being proposed is for the state to adopt Connecticut’s system. However, that may take anywhere from nine to twelve months – pushing up against the next open enrollment.
While improvements have been made, computer problems remain entrenched. A 31-page report by Maryland budget analysts says that “there is significant uncertainty about the way forward” with future information technology spending that will be needed. The state cites a state report covering “architectural flaws” in the system.
As the Obama administration hurried to meet its self-imposed roll-out deadline, security experts working for the feds worried that state computer systems would be an opening for hackers. The AP has received documents demonstrating more than two-thirds of state computers which were supposed to access federal systems – to verify sensitive personal coverage information – were, at the outset, designated as “high risk” – for security issues. Such “back door” attacks have been in the news comparatively recently. Target’s credit and debit card compromise – is believed to have occurred when hackers gained access to information through a contractor’s network. To connect to federal computer systems, states must pass a security check and receive “authority to connect”. One document obtained by the AP, an e-mail from Teresa Fryer, chief information security officer for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, reflects her concern: “The front office is signing them whether or not they are at high risk.”
46 states and The District of Columbia have a three year “permissions to connect”.
In Minneapolis on February 19, Vice-President Joe Biden began back-tracking on Obamacare enrollment projections. “[W]e may not get to 7 million, but if we get to 5 or 6 million that’s a hell of a start.” Biden added: “We didn’t want this to start off as shaky as it did. But it’s complicated.” Biden’s remarks were made before women, during an unannounced coffee shop trip, who have been Navigators or signed up for coverage.
If America’s relationship with Obamacare is complicated, is a breakup, a reconciliation, or therapy next?
Three months after experts first pointed out the problem, a group of cyber security professionals warns that the U.S. government has failed to protect the HealthCare.gov website from hackers.
David Kennedy, head of computer security consulting firm TrustedSec LLC, says that the government has yet to plug more than 20 vulnerabilities that he and other security experts reported to the government shortly after HealthCare.gov went live on Oct. 1.
While laws exist ensuring that private companies disclose if someone’s personal information has been compromised, there is no law requiring notification when databases run by the federal government are breached, and even though the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was asked to include a notification provision in the rules being drawn up for the new federal exchange, it declined to do so.
IT experts have repeatedly raised red flags about the security of the information people are putting into the exchanges. In fact, a report last month from HHS noted that 32 security incidents had been logged since the website rolled out Oct. 1, 2013. This website has been described by former Social Security Administrator Michael Astrue as a “hacker’s dream” and ten Attorneys General even joined together to send a letter citing their security concerns to HHS Secretary Sebelius.
The House of Representative rounds out its first week back after the holidays with a pair of votes Friday aimed at the security and functionality of Obamacare’s ground zero, HealthCare.gov. It’s a jab at the Obama administration after the website launch fiasco and follows repeated Republican criticisms about what they say was inadequate testing of the website security. It’s a strategy that’s likely to play out from now right up until the midterm elections.
Republicans say now they can respond to specific problems with the law — instead of just trying to eliminate all of it. For example, one bill offered by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) would require the Department of Health and Human Services to notify Americans within two days if their personal information has been compromised on the new insurance exchanges. The other, sponsored by Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), would require the administration to publicize weekly reports detailing the performance of the federal website.
Read more at Politico
Online Obamacare state-run enrollment operations in Maryland, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Oregon, have struggled with technological difficulties and low sign-up levels. Many top executives have been replaced. A few states such as California and New York have been more successful with relatively smooth rollouts.
More than 2 million people visited the federal healthcare.gov site on Dec. 23, ahead of a deadline to sign up for insurance coverage that starts Jan. 1. Thirty-six states are using the federal portal. The remaining 14 and the District of Columbia have built their own marketplaces.
Some of the states’ missteps mirror that of the federal government’s website. Like healthcare.gov, Oregon built its exchange without hiring an outside information-technology firm, known as a systems integrator, to organize the project.
The Health and Human Services Department has told contractors working on the problem-plagued ObamaCare website not to release documents to congressional investigators, a mandate slammed as “criminal obstruction” by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa.
The Dec. 6 letter from CMS official Daniel Kane says that although the department understands Congress’ need for documents to continue its probe into the issues with Healthcare.gov, the agency is concerned about security risks from releasing testing information to third parties.
The author lists and analyzes, in order from least to most alarming, three of the things the Obama administration probaby knows about the health law and is choosing not to share:
1. How many people are on the website?
2. How many people are signing up?
3. How broken is the back end?
When it comes to Obamacare and the frantic White House effort to right the listing website meant to bring private health insurance to the uninsured, there’s a lot more we know we don’t know than hard information we can point to.
At a White House Youth Summit on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, President Obama, sounding like a motivational speaker, used the opportunity to rally a key demographic for the success of the 2010 Affordable Care Act now that the system’s problem-plagued website appeared to working smoothly for most users. Sounding like a motivational speaker, President Barack Obama asked young supporters on Wednesday to encourage their peers to sign up for health coverage under his embattled reforms known both affectionately and derisively as Obamacare.
Obama compared the seemingly endless political fight over the health care reforms to struggles that surrounded social progress milestones of the past century.
Insurance companies say “back-end” aspects of the HealthCare.gov system continue to malfunction. In particular, insurers cite problems with applications from people who signed up through the website, including erroneous or missing information.