The Wrong Track: Security and the ObamaCare Problem

The Wrong Track: Security and the ObamaCare Problem

September 5, 2014

By: Patrick Hedger - Policy Director, American Encore

When the government’s IT infrastructure for the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare, went into a nearly instantaneous melt-down upon launch, there were countless glaring issues pointed out by experts with what the government had constructed. Yet one of the most serious issues with, the ObamaCare website, wasn’t what the government had done but instead what they forgot to do: secure it.

Last fall, IT experts went on the record testifying to Congress and reporting to the media about the extent of’s vulnerabilities. Some called for the entire website to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch while those with somewhat more optimistic views said it would take at least a year to secure the site.  Regardless, less than a year later, the fear of a cyber attack on the defenseless database containing the sensitive healthcare and financial information of millions of Americans has just been realized and it ought to reinvigorate some of the more fundamental debates about ObamaCare as a whole.

Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the agency charged with the primary administration of all things ObamaCare, announced that within the last week or so they had discovered an outside intrusion into one of the servers that supports Potentially more troubling is that this hack, just recently discovered by HHS, actually occurred in July! While no information was stolen in this particular breach, it proves that is still susceptible to a major attack. It further proves that the entire concept of ObamaCare is fundamentally flawed and creates an unnecessary risk for Americans.

Here’s why.

What ObamaCare does is centralize the health insurance market within a government apparatus. Whereas in the old model Americans bought insurance directly from the insurance companies or through their employer (who already has access to most of their information), the ObamaCare model injects the government as a third party. To buy plans on the ObamaCare exchanges, i.e., Americans have to submit all of their information to the centralized government database first. The unintentional protection created by keeping this information dispersed between all of the various companies will eventually be gone. What’s more, the amount of information stored by the government for ObamaCare is set to grow exponentially.

It is estimated that most of the insurance market outside of the ObamaCare exchanges will be destroyed under the law. By the admission of the chief White House architect of ObamaCare, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, 80 percent or more of private, employer-sponsored, healthcare plans will be eliminated within the decade. Roughly 55 percent of Americans currently obtain health insurance coverage from their employers. The result is that the elimination of the employer-based market will push over 150 million people into ObamaCare and their personal information onto’s poorly guarded servers.

In a perfect world, and of course apart from the dismal economics of it all, there isn’t necessarily a problem here. But we don’t live in a perfect world and the government tends to prove, time and again, that it is one of the most imperfect parts of it. From specific events like the disastrous rollout of ObamaCare, the Veteran’s Affairs Scandal, or Hurricane Katrina, to perennial headaches like dealing with the IRS or taking a trip to the DMV, we are constantly reminded of the fact that government is just not that good at what it insists on doing.

In spite of their abhorrent record at monumental undertakings, the government, via ObamaCare, has decided to play traffic cop for the entire insurance market and, in doing so, created a massive digital silo filled with only the most sensitive information about millions of Americans. Then, in typical government fashion, they forgot to properly protect it. It’s a one-stop-shop for millions of Americans’ most sensitive personal information… and the door is unlocked.

This is, at a fundamental level, where the vehement criticisms of the Affordable Care Act stem from. It’s not that critics of ObamaCare have some sort of heartless agenda or happen to be fond of the old status quo, as defenders of the law continue to insist. Instead, it’s the fact that the government has consolidated tremendous responsibility only to turn around and act completely reckless and neglectful, as the security breach proves.

Of course the problem of IT security, or general carelessness, isn’t isolated to the government. Defenders of big government will undoubtedly point to data breaches in the private sector, such as those at Home Depot and Target, for vindication. The problem with drawing such a comparison, however, is that the market can punish those private firms that do not properly secure your data. Your choice to not patronize their business incentivizes them to increase security and act more responsibly.

The issue with ObamaCare, and the government more broadly, is that such a mechanism of accountability does not exist. With the law destroying markets that the government doesn’t facilitate, ObamaCare eliminates the option of choosing to take your business and data elsewhere.

What this data breach ought to remind us is that with ObamaCare, we’re violating an age-old rule: don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. The failure to secure is the kind of archetypal maladroitness we’re all too familiar with from big government and likely indicative of a pervasive lack of precaution throughout the Affordable Care Act’s various programs. This should give us pause and remind us that it is not too late to reconsider our current course. With that, no one is saying we should pretend like the healthcare crisis doesn’t exist and that we should revert back to where we were five years ago. Ensuring all Americans are able to access the healthcare they need is indeed one of the great challenges of our time. That being said, a massive dose of government ineptitude is not the remedy.

The Wrong Track is a series of blogs inspired by the fact that recent polls have shown that the overwhelming majority of Americans believe their country is headed the wrong way. In these blogs, American Encore will identify exisiting and proposed policies that have America poised to regress instead of thrive, but will do so only in the hope that Americans will be motivated into action.

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