Is Your Private Data Safe on an Obamacare Exchange?

Hipaa cc

No. And don’t be fooled by false arguments designed to mislead you about it.

This debate began when it was noted that the official Obamacare website (Healthcare.gov) has a notice stating that you should not expect your data to be kept confidential.

This led to  Republican Congressman Joe Barton suggesting  that the notice was a violation of HIPAA, a law which supposedly protects the privacy of your medical data.

This in turn led to a post by a Forbes contributor who describes himself as “from the left” stating that the Congressman didn’t know what he was talking about–HIPAA does not apply to Healthcare.gov and Healthcare.gov will protect your medical data. This is all stated with an air of triumph and dismissal–those stupid GOP Congressmen! The “explanation” has been a hit in social media.

The only problem is that this rebuttal “from the left” is completely misleading. In the first place, HIPAA doesn’t even protect your medical privacy. Under that so-called privacy act, up to 600,000 different parties have legal access to your medical data.

In the second place, and very much to the point, the question is not whether HIPPA applies to Healthcare.gov. or whether the site will protect your medical data. These are what debaters call red herrings, issues raised in order to create a smokescreen and move the conversation away from the real issue.The real issue that has been raised is whether the site will protect your financial data. Someone signing up for a health policy through the exchange provides a social security number and a lot of very intimate financial data. This needs to be protected, but the site notice acknowledges the truth, that this data may freely move anywhere within government, and probably cannot be protected against internet thieves. Consequently, the government is refusing to take responsibility for protecting the financial data either from other government agencies or from inadvertent release to hackers or others.

On this same subject of Healthcare.gov security, it has also been pointed out that there are already legions of predatory, sound-alike sites trying to draw people who think they are going into the government’s site but are not. How many people will end up giving their social security number and other data to these shady operators? So far the government does not seem to be doing anything at all to protect the public from them.

Nancy Pelosi famously said that we had to pass Obamacare to know what was in it. Despite the length of the bill, it gave so much discretion to Health and Human Services that we won’t really know what is in it for years and years more. Meanwhile, the more we learn, the more this experiment in crony medicine looks worse and worse.