By Patti Carpenter
U.S. Senator John Barrasso teamed up Senator Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) to introduce legislation last week they say is designed to protect private health information entered by citizens using the federal insurance exchange website.
“Americans know that fraud and identity theft are big concerns,” said Barrasso in a statement to the press. “It’s been clear from the start that the health care exchange was vulnerable to con artists, to hackers and actually information went out from the government saying, be careful with your information because of the concerns of con artists and hackers. So that’s a problem, and it’s something that I think Washington and this body needs to take seriously.”
The Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act, which already passed the House of Representatives on Jan. 10, requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to notify Americans within two business days if their personal information has been stolen due to a breach of security on the Obamacare insurance exchanges.
“That should be the minimum that we require from Washington—keep Americans’ private information private,” Barrasso explained. “Then if government fails to keep that information safe, we should have to admit it and tell people what happened.
“So all this bill says—it’s a single page—Americans are concerned about their safety on-line, about having their identity stolen and this bill would give people at least the reassurance that they would be informed that if there are issues with their identity theft, that they would know about it.”
To illustrate his point, Barrasso noted a recent incident involving a security breach at the Target department store chain.
“Look at what just happened to the Target stores. It now looks like 70 million people had their personal data compromised.
“Now, they ran a full-page ad, in the Washington Post, talking about what happened with their 70 million customers. They apologized for it.
“The same ad that ran here in the Washington Post and ran in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and other papers around the country.
“Target told people about the security breach so they can take appropriate steps and watch for signs of identity theft. I think Target also said they would do free credit ratings for a year, made a number of concerns the American people have, addressed those concerns and said, this is how we would take care of it.
“All the bill that we are offering today says is that if something happens like happened here and happens on the government’s health exchange website, that Washington should do the same thing—should tell people that someone has gotten access to their personal information so people can protect themselves.”
The bill will now be voted on by the Senate and, and if passed, will require President Obama’s signature.
“After forcing so many people to buy health insurance through the government, the administration has the highest level of responsibility to protect Americans’ personal health information,” said Barrasso. “When Americans fall victim to fraud and identity theft after using the health care exchange, they need to know immediately so they can protect themselves. If President Obama is really prepared to support good ideas about his health care law, he’ll embrace our bill immediately.”
By Patti Carpenter