Health exchange security concerns

Security concerns won’t delay the scheduled Oct. 1 opening of the Colorado health insurance exchange, officials said.

A Grand Junction insurance broker, meanwhile, said it’s clear that the Colorado exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, is addressing security seriously.

“I expect them to be fully invested in security for their site,” Randy Pifer of Active Insurance Solutions said.

Connect for Health Colorado, meanwhile, hired a contractor to perform “independent security and penetration testing” to be complete by Oct. 1, Myung Oak Kim, director of communications and outreach for Connect for Health Colorado, said in a statement.

The federal health exchange established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has missed several deadlines in testing its system, according to an inspector general’s report issued last week.

The federal Health Insurance Marketplace website will require Social Security numbers and income information to determine whether applicants qualify for subsidies.

Connect for Health Colorado also is making “detailed preparations through policies and procedures” to protect the privacy of applicants, Kim said.

After attending a series of training sessions on the use of the Connect for Health Colorado website, “I can assure you it was incredibly detailed,” Pifer said, noting that brokers such as he face fines and other sanctions should private information such as Social Security, income and medical information escape the system.

“If I screw up with HIPAA information, the consequences will be severe,” Pifer said, referring to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which established privacy thresholds for individuals.

Even if the state system can protect the privacy of applicants, however, information will have to be placed into the federal system at some point so that determinations about eligibility for subsidies can be made, Pifer noted.

“Unfortunately, the federal backup is not going to be there,” Pifer said, and without “validation from the federal government, we’re all wandering in the desert, so to speak.”


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