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Legislative Update (Sept. 17, 2013)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dear neighbor,

As the October 1 open enrollment date for MNsure – the Minnesota arm of Obamacare – approaches, serious questions remain about the competence of the leadership of this new government healthcare bureaucracy.

Last week, MNsure officials confirmed that one of their employees had inadvertently sent a document containing the private information of 2,400 agents and brokers to an insurance broker’s office in Apple Valley. The document contained names, addresses, and social security number of those 2,400 individuals.

Since the debate began on implementing a version of Obamacare on the state level, I have warned my fellow legislators, the governor, and the public about the lack of safeguards for data privacy protection that would result from implementing this sort of government-organized healthcare exchange. Normally, it’s very satisfying to say “I told you so” when predictions come true. However, in this case, I am just concerned with how many people’s private data is at risk because of the sheer volume and types of data that will be gathered by MNsure. As I’ve been corresponding with MNsure officials, I am becoming increasingly concerned that those in charge have an inadequate grasp of our state’s data privacy and data practices laws. You can watch my interview with WCCO on the subject by clicking here.

Given the breach and abuse of data by government staff and MNsure’s special exemption from oversight, I believe it’s reasonable to ask Governor Dayton and the Democrats how sensitive information – like a woman’s pregnancy status and due date or a young professional’s projected future income – will be kept secure and private.

Recently, the Attorney General of West Virginia wrote a column in Forbes outlining the risk of having so few safeguards in place for our personal and medical information and what can happen if that information falls into the wrong hands. He writes:

Stealing a medical identity is more lucrative than other kinds of identity theft.  It’s been reported that a social security number sells for $1 on the black market.  But a person’s address, Social Security number, Medicare number, and medical history may bring in $50 up front, plus thousands more for the con men who use the information to buy prescription drugs and scam the consumer’s insurance company out of payments.  Consumers are left facing bogus charges and ruined credit scores.  Undoing the damage — if it’s even possible — can require countless hours of frustration and effort.

Another column caught my attention as well. Theresa Payton, the former White House Chief Information Officer from 2006 to 2008, explains how the government could be putting you at risk for identity theft because of Obamacare.

This unprecedented aggregation of your personal information to one place is taking place at a time when data breaches are escalating, and amidst wide acknowledgment that health care data breaches are a growing concern. According to a report by the Identity Theft Resource Center, 34.1% of all data breaches were tied back to health care.

Meanwhile, here in Minnesota, we have evidence MNsure is failing to do its homework when it relates to background checks on those “trusted community organizations” receiving grants to help people navigate this new government-organized healthcare bureaucracy. The Star Tribune reported that the head of one organization that is set to receive grant money once brandished a shotgun at a Wisconsin deputy during a traffic stop. MNsure officials later say that their vetting process of recipients has yet to be completed. Is that supposed to give us comfort at this point?

Given the security breach and poor judgment we’ve already witnessed from MNsure as well as the great risk involved with citizens’ personal information at the hands of a new government bureaucracy, I believe it’s fair to say that MNsure is not ready for primetime.

I am always interested in your feedback. Please feel free to contact me by e-mail at Rep.Peggy.Scott@House.MN or contact my office at 651-296-4231. You can also send me mail to my office address: 201 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.