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Obamacare Employee Accidentally Sends Out 2,400 Social Security Numbers

9:05 AM, Sep 14, 2013 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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With Obamacare’s massive Patient Data Hub poised to open soon, a sloppy mistake by an Obamacare employee hasn’t exactly inspired confidence that Americans’ private information will be closely guarded by Obamacare’s powers-that-be.  As the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports (and Andrew Johnson highlights at NRO), an Obamacare exchange employee in Minnesota accidentally sent out an email containing 2,400 Americans’ Social Security numbers.  

The Star Tribune writes:

“A MNsure employee accidentally sent an e-mail file to an Apple Valley insurance broker’s office on Thursday that contained Social Security numbers, names, business addresses and other identifying information on more than 2,400 insurance agents.

“An official at MNsure, the state’s new online health insurance exchange, acknowledged it had mishandled private data. A MNsure security manager called the broker, Jim Koester, and walked him and his assistant through a process of deleting the file from their computer hard drives.

“Koester said he willingly complied, but was unnerved.

“‘The more I thought about it, the more troubled I was,’ he said. ‘What if this had fallen into the wrong hands? It’s scary. If this is happening now, how can clients of MNsure be confident their data is safe?’”

The Star Tribune continues:

“Users of the exchange will need to provide sensitive information, including Social Security numbers, that will be sent to a federal hub to verify such things as citizenship and household income….

“All states and the federal government, which also is setting up exchanges for some states, are scurrying to get the complex system running in less than three weeks.

“‘The people who believe in this are so driven that there’s a subcontext of “Just let us do our job and get as many people signed up as possible, and we’ll pick up the debris later,”’ said Steve Parente, a University of Minnesota finance professor who specializes in health IT issues.

“Parente testified on Capitol Hill earlier this week, urging caution in pushing the federal hub online before it has been thoroughly tested.

The Star Tribune reports that the recipient of the mishandled privacy data was applying to become an Obamacare “navigator”:

“Koester, the agent, had been working with MNsure staff because he was having trouble registering for classes to get trained as a certified ‘navigator’ to help people sign up for coverage.

“Koester said there had been some back-and-forth with a MNsure staffer when he received an e-mail and attachment that took him by surprise: page after page of names, business addresses, license numbers and Social Security numbers.

…“‘[T]he gorilla in the room is that they sent me something that’s not even encrypted. It’s unsecured, on an Excel spreadsheet — which is using outdated technology to transfer that information in the first place.’

“‘They’ve got to realize they have a huge problem.’”

Here’s a helpful diagram of how Obamacare’s Patient Data Hub would operate, courtesy of FreedomWorks.  Maybe it’s time to delay Obamacare—before repealing it in 2017.

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