California Health Exchange Shares Consumer Data Without Consent

AP

The California health exchange has been giving the names of tens of thousands of consumers to insurance agents without getting their permission.

In an attempt to hit deadlines for coverage, data from individuals who have gone on to the health exchange to research insurance options but didn’t ask to be contacted are still being passed along to insurance agents, according to the Associated Press.

Officials with Covered California, the exchange set up in response to the federal health law, said they began providing names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses if available this week in a pilot program. They said they thought it would help people meet a Dec. 23 deadline to have health insurance in place by Jan. 1.

The state doesn't know exactly how many people are affected by the information sharing. Social Security numbers, income and other information were not provided to the agents, exchange officials said. […]

Covered California has signed up nearly 80,000 people in private health plans and an additional 140,000 people qualified for Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program.

But the exchange has been struggling recently with a surge of applicants, and consumers are getting frustrated with long wait times. The state wanted to provide additional help by connecting consumers with a network of 7,700 insurance agents who are trained and certified in the enrollment process, said Lee, the exchange chief.