The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Transparency Bills for Obamacare

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


Today, the House passed H.R 3811, the “Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act.”  The bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to notify Americans within two days of learning that personally identifiable information has been compromised or breached on the Healthcare.gov website.  It passed by a vote of 291 to 122, a veto-proof majority.  That’s good news because the White House has said they oppose the legislation as it would be “administratively burdensome.”  Of course, people who have had their identity stolen because of the botched Obamacare website could end up with several years of administratively burdensome paperwork to resolve their problems.

Security issues with the website have been a concern since it officially opened for business on Oct. 1, 2013.  Computer security expert John McAfee said on Oct. 3 that the website was “a hacker's wet dream.”  When Chairman Joe Pitts of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health introduced the legislation he stated:

The administration’s record of broken promises has given the American people every reason to doubt the security and readiness of the health care law.  The administration knowingly launched a website before final security testing was completed after repeatedly testifying that everything was ‘on track,’ which we now know was not the case.  Americans have the right to know if their personal information is jeopardized because of this law.  With this commonsense bill, we are demanding transparency from an administration that has gone out of its way to withhold information from the public when it comes to Obamacare.  A prompt alert deserves strong, bipartisan support and should be fast-tracked to provide Americans peace of mind that their information is safe and secure.”

The bill now heads to the Senate.  Considering the bill had large support from Democrats in the House, it may be difficult for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) not to allow a vote.

Next week, the House will consider H.R. 3362, the Exchange Information Disclosure Act that was introduced on January 6, 2014 by Rep. Terry Lee (R-Neb), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade.  It is scheduled to be voted in the House on Thursday, January 17.  The legislation, among other things, will:

Amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to expand reporting requirements related to health care exchanges. Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to publish reports weekly through March 31, 2015, on: (1) consumer interactions with healthcare.gov or subsequent sites and any efforts undertaken to remedy problems that impact taxpayers and consumers, (2) calls to the federal customer service call center, including the number of calls received by the call center, problems identified by users, and referrals of those calls; (3) all navigators and certified application counselors that have been trained and certified by health care exchanges; and (4) all agents and brokers who have been trained and certified by the federal health care exchange.

The president and HHS have been remarkably evasive when giving enrollment numbers for Obamacare.  CAGW has written about it here and here.  It is difficult to separate out Medicaid enrollment numbers, Obamacare enrollment numbers, who has paid their first premium, demographics of the enrollees, and so forth.  Many who work in the health policy arena believe the paid enrollment numbers are very low.  After all, if they were high, HHS would not be so recalcitrant about releasing them.  More often than not, when federal or state officials tout how many newly insured people are on the roles, it appears what they are really talking about are Medicaid enrollments, not private insurance enrollment through the Obamacare exchanges. But it is hard to know for sure.  An Energy and Commerce Committee press release points out:

Despite repeated questions from Congress, the administration has failed to provide adequate information on the numbers of Americans who are actually enrolled through an exchange or basic demographic information. More than three months after the launch of the exchanges, we simply do not know how many Americans are enrolled in an exchange plan or whether young Americans are participating.

The White House also opposes this legislation saying, “H.R. 3362 would add extraneous, costly, and unprecedented reporting requirements on States and the Federal Government.  It would require the reporting of data on a weekly basis that is generally being provided on a monthly basis.”  But this information should be pretty easy to provide since much of it is what the Healthcare.gov website is suppose to be collecting every time someone enrolls, not to mention taxpayers have paid millions for the construction of the website and have a right to know.  Plus, the Healthcare.gov website is supposed to be working better now, right?

Two related side issues in the news today and perhaps a peek at what is really happening with Obamacare nationwide:

Reuters reported that Humana had “projected its enrollment mix in private plans through the exchanges created by President Barack Obama's healthcare law will be, ‘more adverse than previously expected.’”  The company went on to say the enrollment trend is likely due to the president allowing people to remain in their previous existing health plans that are not sold on the exchanges.

Clearly, in spite of all the rhetoric to the contrary from the administration, it seems the millions of people who lost their “substandard” healthcare plans because of Obamacare do prefer to keep them.

And in Oregon, not one person has signed up for private insurance via the “CoverOregon.gov” website.  The state has the dubious honor of being one of the worst state-run exchanges in the country.  All of the enrollments have had to be done manually resulting in care being delayed.  Although the IT person in charge of the development of the website has resigned for “personal reasons” it is clear the entire process has been bungled from the beginning.  There appears to have been plenty of warnings that things were not going smoothly during the construction of the website and of course, the “blame game” has begun in earnest.

According to press reports, approximately 20,000 people have enrolled in private coverage in Oregon, which is way below projections.  It also appears most people who are newly insured are in Medicaid; approximately 149,000.  These figures do not bode well for patients, Obamacare, or taxpayers.

One figure many health policy gurus want to know is of all the people who enrolled in private plans via the exchanges, how many are individuals that had health insurance coverage but lost it late last year because their plan didn't meet Obamacare’s expensive mandates.  CAGW expects those facts and others will be forthcoming.

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