Move over NSA, here comes the Obamacare Big Brother database

Posted on July 22, 2013. Filed under: Government, Health | Tags: , |


From Rare.US comes the following story:

Would you trust thousands of low-level Federal bureaucrats and contractors with one-touch access to your private financial and medical information? Under Obamacare you won’t have any choice.

As the Obamacare train-wreck begins to gather steam, there is increasing concern in Congress over something called the Federal Data Services Hub. The Data Hub is a comprehensive database of personal information being established by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement the federally facilitated health insurance exchanges. The purpose of the Data Hub, according to a June 2013 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, is to provide “electronic, near real-time access to federal data” and “access to state and third party data sources needed to verify consumer-eligibility information.” In these days of secret domestic surveillance by the intelligence community, rogue IRS officials and state tax agencies using private information for political purposes, and police electronically logging every license plate that passes by, the idea of the centralized Data Hub is making lawmakers and citizens nervous.

They certainly should be; the potential for abuse is enormous. The massive, centralized database will include comprehensive personal information such as income and financial data, family size, citizenship and immigration status, incarceration status, social security numbers, and private health information. It will compile dossiers based on information obtained 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 for some reason the Peace Corps. The Data Hub will provide web-based, one-stop shopping for prying into people’s personal affairs.

Not to fear, HHS says, the Data Hub will be completely secure. Really? Secure like all the information that has been made public in the Wikileaks era? These days no government agency can realistically claim that private information will be kept private, especially when it is being made so accessible. Putting everyone’s personal information in once place only simplifies the challenge for those looking to hack into the system.

However, the hacker threat is the least of the Data Hub worries. The hub will be used on a daily basis by so-called Navigators, which according to the GAO are “community and consumer-focused nonprofit groups, to which exchanges award grants to provide fair and impartial public education” and “refer consumers as appropriate for further assistance.” Thousands of such people will have unfettered access to the Data Hub, but there are only sketchy guidelines on how they will be hired, trained and monitored. Given the slap-dash, incoherent way Obamacare is being implemented the prospect for quality control is low. And the Obama administration’s track record of sweetheart deals, no-bid, sole-source contracting and other means of rewarding people with insider access means the Data Hub will be firmly in the hands of trusted White House loyalists.

So if you think the IRS targeting Tea Party groups was bad, just wait for the Obamacare Navigators to be unleashed. “Trust us,” the administration says, no one will abuse the Data Hub. Sure, because that has worked out so well in the past.

James S. Robbins is Deputy Editor of Rare and author of Native Americans: Patriotism, Exceptionalism, and the New American Identity. Follow him on Twitter @James_Robbins

– See more at: http://rare.us/story/move-over-nsa-here-comes-the-obamacare-big-brother-database/#sthash.1K7bovmP.dpuf

And here is a related story from National Review Online:

July 22, 2013 4:00 AM

Obamacare’s Branch of the NSA 

Community organizers will use a Federal Data Hub to sign up people for subsidies — and even ballots.

By         John Fund

President Obama has had a poor record of job creation, but at least one small economic sector is doing well: community organizing.

The Department of Health and Human Services is about to hire an army of “patient navigators” to inform Americans about the subsidized insurance promised by Obamacare and assist them in enrolling. These organizers will be guided by the new Federal Data Hub, which will give them access to reams of personal information compiled by federal agencies ranging from the IRS to the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration. “The federal government is planning to quietly enact what could be the largest consolidation of personal data in the history of the republic,” Paul Howard of the Manhattan Institute and Stephen T. Parente, a University of Minnesota finance professor, wrote in USA Today. No wonder that there are concerns about everything from identity theft to the ability of navigators to use the system to register Obamacare participants to vote.

HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius wasn’t satisfied with the $54 million in public funds allocated for navigators this year, so she tried to raise money from health-industry executives for Enroll America, the liberal nonprofit group leading the PR push for Obamacare. She had to retreat under withering criticism that she was shaking down companies that were dependent on government, a clear conflict of interest.

Because 34 states have declined to set up their own insurance “exchanges,” the job of guiding exchange enrollees in those states has been left to Washington. The identity of the groups who will get the Sebelius grants isn’t yet known, but Politico reports they are likely to include Planned Parenthood, senior-citizen advocacy organizations, and churches.

So far everything we’ve learned indicates the navigators will be flying blind, or could well be “unsafe at any speed.” In June, the Government Accountability Office reported that HHS is considering allowing navigators to assist with outreach and enrollment tasks even before completing their formal training. The reason? Like so much of Obamacare, the navigators program is behind schedule and drowning in its own complexity.

This spring, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee lawyers were also told by HHS that, despite the fact that navigators will have access to sensitive data such as Social Security numbers and tax returns, there will be no criminal background checks required for them. Indeed, they won’t even have to have high-school diplomas. Both U.S. Census Bureau and IRS employees must meet those minimum standards, if only because no one wants someone who has been convicted of identity theft getting near Americans’ personal records. But HHS is unconcerned. It points out that navigators will have to take a 20–30 hour online course about how the 1,200-page law works, which, given its demonstrated complexity, is like giving someone a first-aid course and then making him a med-school professor. “I want to assure you and all Americans that, when they fill out their [health-insurance] marketplace applications, they can trust the information they’re providing is protected,” said Marilyn Tavenner, head of HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, at a congressional hearing last week. In the age of Wikileaks and IRS abuses, somehow that isn’t very comforting.“The standards proposed by your department could result in a convicted felon receiving federal dollars and gaining access to confidential taxpayer information,” a group of nine Republican senators led by Utah’s Orrin Hatch wrote to Secretary Sebelius last month. “The same standards allow any individual who has registered with the exchange and completed two days of training to facilitate enrollment, as if the decision to purchase health insurance is similar to the decision of registering to vote.”

Indeed, voter registration is among the goals of the folks hawking Obamacare. The People’s World newspaper reports: “California’s Secretary of State Debra Bowen is designating the state’s new Health Benefit Exchange, Covered California, as a voter registration agency under the National Voter Registration Act. That means Covered California will be incorporating voter registration into every transaction — online, in-person and by phone — it has with consumers.” It seems as if some Obama supporters have found a new way to fill the void left by the bankruptcy of ACORN, the notorious left-wing voter-registration group that saw dozens of its employees in multiple states convicted of fraud.

At least the pay will be better. ACORN was infamous for stiffing its employees and even once sued the state of California to ask for an exemption from its minimum-wage law. But early reports are that the federal government will be offering navigators between $20 and $48 an hour. In many states, that’s far more than many private-sector workers with corresponding responsibilities earn.

If there is a silver lining in all of this, it is that the potential failure of the navigators program could further convince voters that Obamacare is simply unworkable. “The Obama administration wants something the federal government has never done: a computer system that connects HHS, the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration, Homeland Security and perhaps other departments,” John Goodman, a health-care expert with the National Center for Policy Analysis, wrote in the Wall Street Journal in May. “For perspective, consider that the Veterans Administration converted to electronic medical records in 1998 and the VA and the Defense Department tried without success to share records until February [2013] when then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that the plan would be abandoned.”

But the consensus is that, if Obamacare isn’t repealed, the government can, with enough effort and money, get the Data Hub up and running. That concerns many members of Congress.

“Giving community organizers access to the Federal Data Hub is bad policy and potentially a danger to civil liberties,” House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan told me recently. “But it’s one of the most underreported stories I’ve seen. If people only knew about this Data Hub program, it would touch off a huge public outcry.”

— John Fund is national-affairs columnist for NRO

This article can be found at:  http://www.nationalreview.com/article/354031/obamacares-branch-nsa-john-fund

 

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