WASHINGTON — Administration officials tried to assure skeptical members of Congress on Wednesday that highly personal information given by millions of Americans joining health care marketplaces will be protected from hackers.
At a House hearing led by Rep. James Lankford, members from both parties expressed concerns that breaches of the new “hub” could expose a range of private data.
“I believe this hub has a bull's-eye on it,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif. “And the potential for it being hacked is great.”
Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., said the health care exchanges would lead to “the largest consolidation of personal information in the history of the republic.”
Marilyn Tavenner, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the hub being created for the health care marketplaces known as exchanges would not retain data. Rather, she said, it was created to connect to databases — like those at the Internal Revenue Service — that can verify such information as whether a person's income qualifies the person for insurance subsidies.
But Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, noted that a person seeking insurance through an exchange would create an account containing personal information that would be stored. That would include Social Security numbers and information about a person's age, gender, race, addresses and phone numbers and potentially some health-related matters, Lankford said.
“The large amount of information sharing raises the risk of identity theft and other types of misuse,” Lankford said. “This risk is even more pronounced since the Department of Health and Human Services has missed several of their own self-imposed deadlines.”
Under the health care law, individuals should be able to shop for insurance on the exchanges beginning Oct. 1.