GOP Lawmakers Raise HealthCare.gov Privacy Questions in Letter

February 2, 2015 in News

On Friday, GOP lawmakers sent a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell requesting information about the safety and security of the federal health insurance exchange website, The Hill reports (Hattem, The Hill, 1/30).

Background

The letter comes after technology experts last month noted connections between HealthCare.gov and several third-party technology companies, prompting concerns about privacy. That investigation found that dozens of data companies might be able to determine when a user is on HealthCare.gov. Further, according to the investigation, some companies might be able to piece together a user’s age, income, ZIP code and medical information.

Last week, HHS added another encryption layer to the site to help reduce the amount of data that is shared with other companies. The changes will decrease the amount of information that is available to third parties for consumers using HealthCare.gov’s window-shopping feature (iHealthBeat, 1/28).

Letter Details

In the letter, GOP leaders of eight House and Senate committees and subcommittees noted that a recent analysis by congressional staffers showed companies such as Google, Twitter, Yahoo and Advertising.com obtain HealthCare.gov visitor data automatically.

They wrote the findings, when coupled with other reports, “[f]urther underscore why HealthCare.gov implementation failures cannot be simply overlooked.”

The lawmakers also noted that CMS’ review of privacy policies and the addition of a new layer of encryption on the website’s online shopping calculator likely is not “sufficient” protection for consumer data. Further, they noted that CMS had not yet replied to the lawmakers’ letter in September 2014 that also outlined concerns about consumer data (The Hill, 1/30).

The lawmakers asked that Burwell respond to their questions by Feb. 13 (Dvorak, FierceHealthIT, 2/2).

The letter was signed by:

  • Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah);
  • Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.);
  • Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.);
  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.);
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa);
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah);
  • Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio); and
  • Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) (The Hill, 1/30).

 

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