The Bright Spot in Obamacare’s Tech Woes

A rocky start: Obamacare.
National Journal
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 »
WORDS AND PICTURES
White House Looks Back on bin Laden Mission
4 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
NO BATTLE OVER SEATTLE
SCOTUS Won’t Hear Appeal of Minimum-Wage Law
6 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a sweeping constitutional challenge to Seattle’s minimum wage law, in what could have been a test case for future legal attacks on similar measures across the country. In a one-line order, the justices declined to hear a case by the International Franchise Association and a group of Seattle franchisees, which had said in court papers that the city’s gradual wage increase to $15 discriminates against them in a way that violates the Constitution’s commerce clause."

Source:
DOWN TO THE WIRE
Sanders Looks to Right the Ship in Indiana
6 hours ago
THE LATEST

Hillary Clinton may have the Democratic nomination sewn up, but Bernie Sanders apparently isn't buying it. Buoyed by a poll showing them in a "virtual tie," Sanders is "holding three rallies on the final day before the state primary and hoping to pull off a win after a tough week of election losses and campaign layoffs." 

Source:
CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION IN JUNE
DC to Release Draft Constitution as Part of Statehood Push
7 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

"The New Columbia Statehood Commission—composed of five District leaders including Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, and D.C.'s congressional delegation—voted today to publicly release a draft of a new constitution for an eventual state next Friday, at the Lincoln Cottage." It's the first step in a statehood push this year that will include a constitutional convention in June and a referendum in November.

Source:
ALZHEIMER’S OUTCRY
Will Ferrell Bails on Reagan Movie
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

Amid outcry by President Reagan's children, actor Will Ferrell has pulled out of a movie that makes light of Reagan's Alzheimer's disease. A spokesperson for Ferrell said, “The ‘Reagan’ script is one of a number of scripts that had been submitted to Will Ferrell which he had considered. While it is by no means an ‘Alzheimer’s comedy’ as has been suggested, Mr. Ferrell is not pursuing this project."

Source:
×