Potential for Abuse 'Enormous' With Massive Obamacare Database

Image: Potential for Abuse 'Enormous' With Massive Obamacare Database

Sunday, 21 Jul 2013 08:49 PM

By Greg Richter

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Those worried about how much data the National Security Agency has collected on them won't like what's coming in 2014.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, is building a giant database of everyone's personal information as part of its effort to run the system. The Department of Health and Human Services assures everyone that the Federal Data Services Hub will be secure, but after the IRS and NSA scandals, not everyone is convinced.

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"The potential for abuse is enormous," notes Rare.com Deputy Editor James S. Robbins. He says that the massive database will include "income and financial data, family size, citizenship and immigration status, incarceration status, social security numbers, and private health information."

It will compile files on everyone in the United States and will get its information from the IRS, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the Veterans Administration, the Office of Personnel Management, the Social Security Administration, state Medicaid databases, and the Peace Corps.

While the Daily Mail reports that many fear the hub will be a hacker's dream, Robbins says hacking isn't the only threat. Community and consumer-focused nonprofit groups called "Navigators" will have access to the information for the purpose of receiving grants from health exchanges so they can "provide fair and impartial public education" and "refer consumers as appropriate for further assistance," according to the Government Accountability Office.

How Navigators are hired or monitored is unclear, Robbins notes. "Given the slap-dash, incoherent way Obamacare is being implemented the prospect for quality control is low."

Robbins isn't the only one wary of the plan.

"If the plan were simply a Travelocity-style portal for choosing different insurance products across state lines, we would support it," Stephen T. Parente and Paul Howard wrote in a USA Today op-ed in December.

"(T)he potential for abuse is staggering," the op-ed says. "For one thing, the hub will have all the details needed to steal identities and fraudulently access credit."

The reason for collecting much of the data is to fight fraud. The IRS information is used to ensuring that applicants for subsidies are being truthful about their income.

CNN reports that the system will be difficult to scam. Even if a person is successful at underestimating his income, the IRS will correct the error when taxes are filed.

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But that isn't the scam that has Peter Roff of U.S. News & World Report concerned.

"Allowing the federal government to create an unprecedented centralized database could be a back door to greater government control — or even a single payer system."

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