According to a report from Investors Business Daily (IBD), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) federal health insurance database will eventually connect consumers’ data to a number of additional federal government agencies. Data from customers of the forthcoming Idaho state-based insurance exchange will also be included in the information transfer.
According to officials in Idaho, that is nothing new, with such data transfers already occurring with the state’s Medicaid program.
Tom Shanahan, a spokesperson for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, told IdahoReporter.com that the Medicaid program connects and interacts with other agencies. “Our Medicaid program already interfaces with most of these federal agencies to enable us to verify eligibility in the Medicaid program,” he said.
The agencies receiving the data include the Internal Revenue Service, the Peace Corps, the Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. Customers’ information will be stored for up to 10 years.
“The federal law will dictate this aspect, unfortunately,” commented Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, concurring with the findings in the IBD report. “I wish we had the power to stop Obamacare and this invasion of privacy.”
Other members of the Legislature do not characterize the connection between Idaho’s insurance exchange and multiple federal agencies in as troublesome of terms as Malek.
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, told IdahoReporter.com that “we've known for months that there will be a federal hub that draws data from multiple agencies and the kind of information involved here is appropriate.” Rusche serves on the insurance exchange board of directors and noted that determining exchange customers’ eligibility for insurance subsidies will require verification of people’s data from various agencies and, therefore, that is why multiple federal agencies are involved in the process.
“I don't see anything in this report that was particularly ominous,” Rusche said of the news from IBD, “and in any event, the information is simply not new.”
Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, who also serves on the board of directors for the exchange, told IdahoReporter.com that he understands why certain federal agencies will need to interact with the state insurance exchange, but he remains uncertain about some others.
“I can understand why the IRS and the Social Security Administration are involved,” he said. “Both the IRS and Social Security will need to be accessed to verify people’s eligibility for federal insurance subsidies. And the Department of Homeland Security may be involved so as to verify people’s citizenship status because those who are in Idaho illegally will not be eligible for the subsidies.”
Rice remains unsure however, why the Department of Defense, the Peace Corps, the Office of Personnel Management and the Veterans Administration are involved, but surmises that these agencies will only be utilized for information verification purposes with individuals who are either employees, or who work as contractors with the respective agencies.
Rep. Doug Hancey, R-Rexburg, told IdahoReporter.com that “if you’re seeking an insurance subsidy or a tax credit, your data will go to the IRS and that makes sense.” He added that “the various federal agencies already have your personal data anyway, and the state insurance exchange will not be accumulating any of it.”
While Malek expresses concern about the Obamacare law, along with the mandates that it holds for the state insurance exchange and Idaho consumers, he nonetheless contends that the state insurance exchange is a solution to the problems.
“If citizens are not concerned about Obamacare, they should be,” Malek said, “and they should do everything in their power to foster state control to push back, like we did with the state-based exchange.”