Congressmen: Delay Individual Mandate Due to Security Concerns

Obamacare security testing behind schedule

Workers monitor data storage systems for hospitals across the country / AP

Three Republican congressmen called for a one-year delay of Obamacare’s individual mandate on Wednesday afternoon because of concerns over the security of the technical infrastructure underlying the exchanges.

Reps. James Lankford (R., Okla.), Diane Black (R., Tenn.), and Patrick Meehan (R., Pa.) discussed the security of the "data hub," a central technical element of the law, on a conference call with reporters.

The health insurance exchanges mandated by Obamacare will pull information from multiple federal agencies, and this information will flow through the "data hub," although the hub will not store any of the data.

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"We still have no certainty that we have security," said Lankford, who chairs the House Oversight Committee’s Health Care Subcommittee.

Testing of the data hub began over a month behind schedule, according to a report by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency in charge of implementing much of the law. The final test of the system’s readiness will take place the day before the system is scheduled to open, the congressmen said.

The administration has not informed Congress about its progress on implementing the law, the congressmen said.

"We have not been able to get any kind of update on the process as it has taken place," said Meehan, who chairs the Cyber Security Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee.

"All we have had are assurances from the various governmental agencies that we are working on this, trust us, we are going to be ready," he said.

The Affordable Care Act did not mandate the data hub, and the administration only built it because of the mandate that every individual carry health insurance, said Lankford.

As a result, if the administration were to delay the individual mandate for a year, the hub could be delayed as well, he argued.

Congress is unsure of the security of other parts of the technical infrastructure beyond the data hub, Meehan said.

Meehan pointed to the recent breaches of the New York Times’ and Washington Post’s websites as evidence that the risk of a cyber attack is large.

The "navigators" being hired by the administration to help people sign up for health insurance are also a security risk, Black added. While they will be handling people’s personal information, they will not be required to have a background check before becoming a navigator.

Meehan said the security of the law’s technical infrastructure is a separate issue from whether to defund Obamacare, as some Republicans are suggesting. The security of the data hub should be an issue that even the law’s proponents support, he contended.

However, Democrats have not expressed much interest in this issue, Lankford said.