Privacy concerns over the Affordable Care Act’s Navigator program has prompted thirteen State attorneys general to write a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requesting answers to their questions and concerns by August 28, 2013.
“Navigators” are entities that will receive grants to carry out duties including:
- Conducting public education activities to raise awareness of the availability of qualified health plans
- Distributing information concerning enrollment in qualified health plans and the availability of premium tax credits
- Facilitating enrollment in qualified health plans
- Providing referrals to appropriate organizations or State agencies for people who have complaints or questions regarding their health plan
In carrying out their duties, these navigators will likely have access to people’s personally identifiable information (PII) including their Social Security numbers, tax return information and some medical history. The information that will be available to navigators is more than what is needed to commit identity theft and fraud and, as such, should be well protected; however, the State attorneys general claim that the policies regarding privacy are lacking. They point out multiple flaws regarding the program policies in their letter such as:
- The program does not require uniform criminal background or fingerprint checks before hiring personnel and does not list any criminal acts that are per se disqualifying.
- Training for personnel is lacking in that the program only requires 20 hours of initial training which was reduced from a previous 30 hours.
- The program requires that state licensure or certification rules must not prevent the application of Affordable Care Act navigator requirements.
The open enrollment period begins October 1, 2013 and potentially millions of Americans will be disclosing their personal information to these navigators in order to receive help in understanding and enrolling in the qualified health plans available to them. Most Americans will be required to have health insurance effective January 1, 2014, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. In just a few months, from October to December, millions of Social Security numbers and other pieces of PII will be trading hands as people try to obtain health insurance by the January 1st deadline. The need for proper screening, proper training and the protection of people’s personal information is clear. The State attorneys general have expressed legitimate concerns and we look forward to hearing the Department of Health and Human Services’ response.
“State Attorneys General Voice Concern Over Affordable Care Act’s Navigator Program” was written by Sam Imandoust, Esq. He serves as a legal analyst for the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to the author and linking back to the original posting.