12:52 PM, May 28, 2015 • By MICHAEL ASTRUE
Even before the launch of Obamacare, one of the few things that was clear about the program was that the Bush-appointed HHS inspector general, Daniel Levinson, placed self-preservation above his statutory duty to bring public attention to Obamacare’s waste, fraud and abuse. It is a point I have made before in these pages, but Levinson continues to stir only in a perfunctory manner when roused by complaints from Congress.
Despite spectacular incompetence at the federal level and federal criminal investigations in several states, Levinson has repeatedly looked away from Obamacare’s wreckage. Levinson has also looked away from the most massive violations of the Privacy Act by a domestic agency since its enactment, a failure that I have documented here and, more recently, in The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Moreover, he has allowed HHS to mislead Congress and the public about what happens to sensitive data supplied by people who apply for coverage through healthcare.gov. Extensive data on more than ten million Americans (soon to be tens of millions) have never magically disappeared in the so-called “data hub”—they reside with a large Beltway contractor called CACI in a massive and vulnerable data base unmonitored in any meaningful way by HHS as contractors rummage through it to create positive Obamacare news.
Ricardo Alonso-Zalvidar of the Associated Press reported last January in a series of articles that healthcare.gov regularly transferred personal details from applicants—including age, income, pregnancy status and tobacco use—to at least fifty outside entities embedded within the system, including advertising agencies and web analytics sites. The subsequent outcry caused HHS to reduce these embedded entities by less than half, but HHS continues to stonewall about who these entities are, what information they use and how they use it, and why it is so smugly confident that none of its partners is abusing their unprecedented access for commercial gain.
President Obama could help to strengthen the oversight of Obamacare by backing legislation to appoint a new inspector general, one with comprehensive jurisdiction over all the participating agencies, but he will never take that step for fear that these improvements would document the failures of his legacy program. Two of the most thoughtful Members of Congress, Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Representative Peter Roskam (R-Ohio), seek to accomplish that goal by introducing introduced legislation (S.1368 and H.R. 2400) that addresses the reckless spending and legal violations that have marked Obamacare’s implementation.
The Roberts-Roskam bill would create a new inspector general with broad interagency authority to look not just at Obamacare failures at HHS, but also at the substantial failures at the Justice Department, the Internal Revenue Service and other agencies with Obamacare responsibilities. In many ways the bill, including its interagency authorities, is modeled after the Inspector General position created by the Recovery Act, a section of that legislation that President Obama has repeatedly and rightly praised.
The bill’s sponsors carefully crafted their bill and followed time-honored authorizing language. Their bill requires a Presidential nomination and Senate confirmation, relevant expertise, prohibitions on political activity, and independence from executive branch interference in investigations. It also authorizes the standard tools for obtaining information and “sunsets” the new entity by requiring Congressional reauthorization before January 1, 2025 or the repeal of the Affordable Care Act—a good habit for Congress to embrace. Finally, it requires a litany of reports on critically important topics that Levinson has ignored.
When the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee hold hearings on this bill, they should specify that this new inspector general would have full authority to investigate whether Levinson and his office misled Congress. As just one example of the need for such investigations, as Obamacare lurched into operation, Levinson’s office stuck closely in its congressional testimony to deceptive HHS talking points implying that personal data of applicants magically disappeared once processed by HHS—talking points which were misleading, and which Levinson’s office knew were misleading.
12:48 PM, Apr 16, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Iowans had their cellphones and cameras confiscated before getting to meet the Democratic presidential frontrunner, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"On Thursday, Clinton's motorcade left the SpringHill Suites for Main Street Cafe, where she met privately with party leaders for about an hour and a half," reports KETV in Omaha.
8:04 AM, Jan 2, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is looking for vendors to run its "National Data Warehouse," a database for "capturing, aggregating, and analyzing information" related to beneficiary and customer experiences with Medicare and the federal Obamacare marketplaces.
Reflections on current outrages Jan 5, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 17 • By PETER AUGUSTINE LAWLER
Thanks to Rolling Stone and Lena Dunham, a big and sensational media issue today is rape on campus. Both the magazine and the author/actress appear to have published false accounts of rape that were written to fit a preconceived liberal or feminist agenda. Vulnerable women are raped by “a Republican” (Dunham) or gangs of fraternity boys who think it is their white, patriarchal privilege to treat women like chattel.
Dec 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 13 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
A new study from the Cato Institute asks the question many travelers have pondered after a pat-down gone awry: Can’t we replace the TSA? The agency’s embarrassing record of waste and mismanagement makes a compelling case.
In more than one instance, the agency has wasted tens of millions on technology that ended up being a flop. It bought hundreds of explosive-detector machines that turned out not to work outside the lab.
The other problem with HealthCare.gov. Nov 18, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 10 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
Americans are methodically dealing with the Kübler-Ross stages of Obama-care grief, with our national healing process moving briskly through roughly one stage per week: (1) denial upon realizing that the website HealthCare.gov didn’t work; (2) anger at the realization that the technical back-end of the exchanges is as dysfunctional as the front-end of the site; (3) shock at the cancellation of plans and increase of premiums; and (4) depression at the prospect of losing access to doctors, too.
3:16 PM, Oct 31, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
When Kathleen Sebelius testified at a congressional hearing on Wednesday, she acknowledged the presence of a worrisome statement included in the source code of Healthcare.gov and promised that work was already underway to remove it.
3:12 PM, Oct 14, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
12:29 PM, Oct 14, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
The launch of federal government's Obamacare insurance exchange, Healthcare.gov, has been plagued with delays, errors, and poor website design, even prompting USA Today to call it an "inexcusable mess" and a "nightmare". Now comes another example of why the website's reputation is in tatters. Buried in the source code of Healthcare.gov is this sentence that could prove embarrassing: "You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system." Though not visible to users and obviously not intended as part of the terms and conditions, the language is nevertheless a part of the underlying code for the "Terms & Conditions" page on the site.
3:39 PM, Oct 8, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
9:05 AM, Sep 14, 2013 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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
Plus, the law's privacy problems haven't disappeared.2:42 PM, Sep 12, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
As the October 1 implementation of parts of Obamacare nears, House Republicans continue to pass legislation aimed at highlighting the health care law's flaws and weaknesses. On Thursday, the House passed a bill to reform an Obamacare verification process that would better stop fraudulent claims to health insurance subsidies. Politico reports:
Photocopier purchased by CBS, previously leased by Affinity, had personal health information on up to 344,579 individuals.8:31 AM, Aug 15, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
As questions remain about the security of the Federal Services Data Hub to be used in conjunction with the Obamacare marketplaces beginning October 1, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has agreed to a settlement with the not-for-profit Affinity Health Plans, Inc., for the company's "potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rules." The case stemmed from a photocopier purchased by CBS News and previously leased by Affinity that still contained sensitive personal health information on up to 344,579 individuals:
6:36 PM, Aug 7, 2013 • By MICHAEL ASTRUE
In my recent WEEKLY STANDARD essay, “Privacy Be Damned,” I warned about the operational problems and privacy issues raised by the “health exchanges” that HHS will force tens of millions of Americans to use as of October 1 of this year. In that essay, I noted that “the HHS inspector general and the GAO have been snoozing on their watches.”
4:27 PM, Aug 6, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Reuters reports that the federal government is "months behind" its efforts to set up data security measures for the state health insurance exchanges, set to open on October 1, as created by Obamacare: