by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Jarred by the defect-riddled rollout of the Obamacare website, Obama administration officials signed up a technology company to rid HealthCare.gov of its bugs.
Now, though, congressional Republicans are scrutinizing that outfit for a potential conflict of interest because its sister company, UnitedHealthcare, is among insurance companies selling plans to Americans through online marketplaces, or “exchanges.”
“If I was a competitor, I would be extremely concerned about this company having access to confidential information that we’ve had to give to the government,” Heritage Foundation legal scholar Hans von Spakovsky told The Daily Signal.
Quality Software Systems Inc., or QSSI, is the tech firm the Department of Health and Human Services picked in October 2013 to straighten out HealthCare.gov.
Maryland-based QSSI was awarded an $84.5 million contract with HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in January 2012 to build the part of HealthCare.gov known as the federal data hub.
The purpose of the data hub: connect multiple government agencies to streamline verification of crucial consumer information—including Social Security number and immigration status—when Americans log into the federal and state exchanges and apply for Obamacare subsidies. …
… In September 2012, two months before President Obama’s re-election, UnitedHealth Group acquired QSSI through a subsidiary, OptumInsight, in a deal consummated with little fanfare. UnitedHealth Group is also the parent of UnitedHealthcare, which offers plans on the exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act.
As The Washington Post noted, neither UnitedHealth nor OptumInsight put out press releases announcing the purchase—and because the deal was relatively small, it didn’t require a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. …
… Von Spakovsky, a senior fellow at Heritage’s Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, points to the unfair advantage UnitedHealthcare appears to have over competitors in access to data because of the OptumInsight/QSSI contract with HHS:
“The potential conflict there is that they have a subsidiary that may get access to the information that competitors normally wouldn’t allow out into the marketplace. That’s the inherent conflict in what they’re doing.”