by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Those of you who dread the prospect of the government sifting through your personal information might want to avoid reading Michael Tanner‘s latest column at National Review Online. The Cato Institute scholar examines the data collection associated with the federal health care law.
On October 1, the law’s insurance exchanges are scheduled to start open enrollment in all 50 states. In order to help people sign up for insurance and to determine which applicants are eligible for subsidies or Medicaid, the exchanges will need to collect both tax and health-care data for more than 7 million Americans. This means a new government bureaucracy will be in possession of these people’s financial, employment, and health information — everything from their income last year to the prescription drugs they take. What could possibly go wrong?
Start with the application process itself. Applicants will be assisted by thousands of “navigators,” who will provide advice and information about the program, help consumers differentiate between the types of insurance plans available, and assist them in completing the application process. Many navigators are expected to be drawn from pro-Obamacare organizations, such as Organizing for America, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Planned Parenthood.
If you are among the millions of Americans forced to purchase insurance through an exchange, these navigators will have access to such sensitive information as your Social Security number, date of birth, bank account number, place of employment, and medical history. Some of the funds needed to hire and train the workers aren’t expected to be released until the end of August. This means that, in the 34 states where the federal government is running the exchanges, there will be just a month to hire and train thousands of workers. In a rush to have sufficient numbers of navigators in place by the October 1 deadline, the administration has reduced the amount of training required from 30 hours to just 20. Three training courses will be conducted online.
The majority of states don’t have any process in place for running criminal-background checks on applicants for these jobs, and there are no requirements that navigators be bonded. In fact, they don’t even need to have a high-school diploma. (The government does plan to use credit-rating agencies to check on the applicants, if that’s any comfort.)