The federal insurance exchanges are set to open in October in Florida and all across the country for individuals to access insurance in order to avoid paying a penalty under President Obama’s new healthcare law. While Florida and many other states fought against this law and its penalties all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, we ultimately lost our battle, and the legislation is now the law of the land.
Even though our chance to stop the president’s healthcare law at the state level has passed, we are becoming increasingly concerned about how the implementation of the law will affect Floridians.
Whenever the federal government forces a brand-new program this big to move this fast, mistakes are bound to be made — just as we saw in Minnesota. Last week, an individual applying to be a navigator in Minnesota mistakenly received 2,400 Americans’ Social Security numbers when a federal insurance exchange employee accidentally sent him an email. Reports say the information contained, “page after page of names, business addresses, license numbers and Social Security numbers.”
As the push for navigators to sign up Floridians on the federal health-insurance exchange becomes more frenzied, the need to safeguard the personal information Floridians submit to the navigators, and its use in a “federal data hub,” is taking on paramount importance.
Though details about what navigators will do to collect personal information and run it through the federal data hub remain inconclusive at best, we know the data hub itself will use Americans’ “income, citizenship, immigration status, access to minimum essential coverage,” as well as other significant, personal information.
Mounting pressure to enroll Floridians in the federal exchange must make us pause to carefully review what protections are in place to safeguard the personal information of hundreds of thousands of Floridians — and millions of Americans — who are expected to use the federal exchange to escape the penalty under the president’s new healthcare law.
With the federal exchange set to open in just a few weeks, many questions about navigators and the federal data hub remain unanswered, jeopardizing the safety and security of Florida families. If the navigators collect personal data, will they destroy all the documents containing confidential application information? If they transmit personal data through the federal data hub, how many people will need to process it inside that system? If someone is not eligible to sign up, do they get their confidential information returned to them? And, what new safeguards will be put in place to ensure what happened in Minnesota last week never happens again?
While I’m glad to see the White House turn its attention to the security needs of the navigators, by calling a meeting with their officials, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder, more is needed than just a conversation.
The federal government needs to thoroughly review what privacy rules and safeguards are in place to protect Americans’ personal information, both when they consult with navigators and when their information is entered into the federal data hub. Protocols, processes and security testing should be carefully detailed and publicly disclosed. Floridians should not have to exchange their privacy for insurance.
Rick Scott is the governor of Florida.