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Covered California’s Misguided Privacy Policy

Earlier this month, Covered California – the state’s affordable health care insurance marketplace – launched an initiative to boost enrollment by inviting individuals who had started an application on the website, but did not finish it, to complete their application. However, the manner in which Covered California is doing this – through sharing the names, addresses and emails of potential applicants with insurance agents and brokers, and having the agents invite the applicant to return to complete their application – has alarmed insurance agents as well as the potential applicants.

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Doctor’s Orders: Bed Rest for

Over the past month, Congressional hearings on the rollout of (the website for the federal health insurance exchange) have been filled with political finger pointing. The Republican House majority is calling for the resignation of HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, while the Democrats lay the blame for the botched rollout on GOP unwillingness to adequately fund the project. None of the political bickering is helpful and in fact it is getting in the way of finding a solution for the many problems facing the website. Of most concern to CDT are reports of security problems that threaten applicant privacy. In short, the website is sick and is in need of bed rest and significant recuperation.

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What’s the Matter With the “Obamacare” Website?

Imagine walking into a department store and having the sales associate immediately approach you and ask for your credit card and driver’s license. You would likely balk at the audacity and walk out of the store and shop somewhere else. Unfortunately, a similar experience awaits customers who try to enroll for coverage on the federal health care reform website–

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An Examination of the Health Privacy Landscape in California

What’s happening in California with respect to health privacy? In short, a lot! In a new report released by the California Healthcare Foundation and authored by CDT’s health privacy team, California’s dynamic health privacy landscape is analyzed, with areas for future policy explored. “Rights and Requirements: A Guide to Privacy and Security of Health Information in California” is an invaluable resource for health care professionals in California and elsewhere as they address the privacy and security challenges of patient information.

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Privacy Reform in Health Care Began Well Before Obamacare

After three years of preparation, today is “Implementation Day” for a signature piece of the Affordable Care Act – the day that health insurance exchanges or “Marketplaces” will be open for individuals seeking coverage. There has been a lot of attention from Congress – and the American public – regarding the integrity and readiness of these insurance marketplaces, especially in terms of privacy. The good news though is that not only has privacy been a core consideration in the design of the Marketplaces, but also that health care privacy reform has made significant progress over the past four years.

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HHS’ New Model Notice of Privacy Practices that Benefits Everyone

Have you ever read that riveting packet of papers you get from the doctor’s office or health insurer labeled “Notice of Privacy Practices”? No? Well, don’t worry; you’re not alone. But now that the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has just released new model notices of privacy practices you may actually want to read– and actually be able to understand.

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Margin of Error on Privacy and Security Narrows for Affordable Care Act Insurance Marketplaces

With less than two months to go before enrollment is set to begin in the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Marketplaces, a report last week from the HHS Office of the Inspector General found that Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have moved their internal deadlines for security testing of the Data Hub to mid-September with a final agency sign-off due on September 30th, the day before open enrollment begins. Getting security right is vital and CMS has crunched its margin for error by moving the deadline to the last minute. The attention being paid to security and privacy at this stage is a good thing – the American public deserves to be reassured that the personal data they enter into the new system, or that is shared by federal agencies, is used appropriately and does not fall into the wrong hands.

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Privacy and Security in the Affordable Care Act’s Data Hub

Last week, two committees of the U.S. House of Representatives held a joint hearing to examine privacy and security issues related to an information exchange system, commonly referred to as the “data hub.” The data hub is managed by HHS and facilitates access to information currently held in federal government databases that is necessary to determine an individual’s eligibility for certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act (health reform). For example, an individual’s eligibility for a federal subsidy to purchase health insurance requires verification of income and family size from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), immigration status from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and incarceration status from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

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Patient-Managed Health Information Exchange: An “HIE of One”

Patient management of their own health information is a much discussed topic in health IT. Patients with the power to access their health information and actively direct its flow have the tools to take charge of their health care and make more informed decisions. A great example of this is a patient who downloads her hospital discharge summary and electronically sends it to both her primary care physician and her adult daughter who helps her manage her condition.

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