The Bright Spot in Obamacare’s Tech Woes

A rocky start: Obamacare.
National Journal
Sam Baker
Add to Briefcase
Sam Baker
Oct. 24, 2013, 10:58 a.m.

For all the prob­lems with Health­Care.gov, one very big, very im­port­ant piece of Obama­care tech­no­logy seems to be work­ing well.

It’s called the “data ser­vices hub” — and it’s not nearly as bor­ing as it sounds. When the law’s crit­ics raise fears of se­cur­ity breaches, they’re talk­ing about the data hub. The hub trans­mits massive amounts of in­form­a­tion about people seek­ing health in­sur­ance, draw­ing from sev­er­al fed­er­al agen­cies and com­mu­nic­at­ing with every state’s in­sur­ance mar­ket­place.

It was ini­tially seen as one of the most likely places for prob­lems to arise in the en­roll­ment pro­cess.

So far, though, the re­views are pos­it­ive.

“It’s work­ing well for us,” said Chris Clark, the tech­no­logy pro­gram man­ager for Ken­tucky’s in­sur­ance ex­change.

The data hub is a massive IT op­er­a­tion that pulls in­form­a­tion from myri­ad fed­er­al data­bases, in­clud­ing re­cords from the IRS, the So­cial Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion, and the Home­land Se­cur­ity De­part­ment.

When people ap­ply for in­sur­ance through an ex­change — wheth­er it’s the fed­er­ally run portal at Health­Care.gov or one of the 14 state-run ex­changes — the data hub is the tool for veri­fy­ing their iden­tity. It’s sup­posed to pull vari­ous re­cords to veri­fy that ap­plic­ants are who they say they are, and also to veri­fy their in­come and em­ploy­ment in­form­a­tion.

Clark said 92 per­cent of the ap­plic­ants through Ken­tucky’s ex­change have been suc­cess­fully veri­fied through the data hub.

“We’re over­joyed with that 92 per­cent. I don’t know that we thought it would be that high of a suc­cess rate,” he said.

Sev­er­al oth­er health care ana­lysts also said the data hub seems to be work­ing well so far, not­ing that Health­Care.gov has been able to veri­fy their iden­tit­ies — and re­ject in­ac­cur­ate in­form­a­tion — when they have tried to use the site.

A suc­cess­ful data hub is crit­ic­al to the en­roll­ment push for the Af­ford­able Care Act. And it was a prime tar­get for cri­ti­cism be­fore the en­roll­ment win­dow opened on Oct. 1.

“I have grave con­cerns about the abil­ity to es­tab­lish suf­fi­cient se­cur­ity in this massive, un­pre­ced­en­ted net­work by Oct. 1.”¦ I fear that our gov­ern­ment is about to em­bark on an over­whelm­ing task that will at best carry an un­fathom­able price tag and at worst place a tar­get on every Amer­ic­an who enters the ex­change,” Rep. Pat Mee­han, R-Pa., said this sum­mer at an Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee hear­ing about the data hub.

Re­pub­lic­ans in Con­gress have raised con­cerns about the data hub and painted it as a mag­net for fraud, im­ply­ing that a soph­ist­ic­ated hack­er could gain ac­cess to reams of per­son­al health care in­form­a­tion.

Many of their fears are un­foun­ded: The data hub doesn’t store any in­form­a­tion. It’s simply a con­duit. And it doesn’t col­lect per­son­al health care re­cords.

Still, the hub isn’t per­fect. And so few people have been able to use the ex­changes that big­ger is­sues could emerge down the line, once the sys­tem grows.

An­drew Slavitt, a vice pres­id­ent at Optum, the con­tract­or that built the data hub, ac­know­ledged some prob­lems dur­ing a House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee hear­ing Thursday.

But he said the prob­lems haven’t been severe — un­like those that have pre­ven­ted users from ac­cess­ing the fed­er­al mar­ket­place at Health­Care.gov.

“When we have en­countered oc­ca­sion­al bugs in the Data Ser­vices Hub, they have been dis­crete is­sues and we have promptly cor­rec­ted them,” he said in pre­pared testi­mony. “While fu­ture is­sues could arise and busi­ness re­quire­ments could change, to my know­ledge, the Data Ser­vices Hub con­tin­ues to op­er­ate well.”

What We're Following See More »
$618 BILLION IN FUNDING
By a Big Margin, House Passes Defense Bill
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The National Defense Authorization Act passed the House this morning by a 375-34 vote. The bill, which heads to the Senate next week for final consideration, would fund the military to the tune of $618.7 billion, "about $3.2 billion more than the president requested for fiscal 2017. ... The White House has issued a veto threat on both the House and Senate-passed versions of the bill, but has not yet said if it will sign the compromise bill released by the conference committee this week."

Source:
FILED BY JILL STEIN
Michigan Attorney General Sues to End Recount
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

Bill Schuette, Michigan's attorney general, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state to halt the recount of the state's voting results. The recount was elected by Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Schuette says the recount shouldn't occur because Stein cited no evidence of voter fraud or tabulation error.

Source:
SUCCEEDS UPTON
Walden to Chair Energy and Commerce Committee
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Republicans have elected Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) the next chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Walden defeated Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL) and Joe Barton (R-TX), the former committee chairman, in the race for the gavel" to succeed Michgan's Fred Upton.

Source:
UNEMPLOYMENT DOWN TO 4.6%
Economy Added 178,000 Jobs in November
5 hours ago
BREAKING

The economy added 178,000 jobs in November, up from just 142,000 in October. Unemployment dropped to 4.6% from 4.9%, making it the lowest rate since before the Great Recession.

BIPARTISAN SUPPORT
Senators Looking to Limit Deportations Under Trump
21 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are working on legislation that would limit deportations" under President-elect Donald Trump. Leading the effort are Judiciary Committee members Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is also expected to sign on.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login