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McConnell urges delay of health care exchanges

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By Reuters
Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, 9:15 p.m.
 

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Monday called on the Obama administration to delay the Oct. 1 opening of exchanges in which uninsured Americans will be able to buy health insurance until the government can guarantee the protection of people's personal data.

The exchanges, a key element of the president's signature 2010 health care law, will be largely online.

In a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the agency taking the lead in implementing the law, McConnell said, “Americans should not be forced into the exchanges, and certainly not without these assurances” that personal and financial data will be safe from “hackers and cyber criminals.”

“If you rush to go forward without adequate safeguards in place,” McConnell added, “any theft of personal information from constituents will be the result of your rush to implement a law to meet the agency's political needs and not the operational needs of the people it is supposed to serve.”

Concerns about data security arose last week when the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services issued a report saying CMS had missed several self-imposed deadlines for testing the security of the information technology that will power the insurance exchanges being set up in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. CMS is part of HHS.

As a result of the delays, a ruling by HHS' chief information officer certifying the security of the federal information technology system will be pushed to Sept. 30, a day before enrollment under the measure is due to start.

The delay in testing and certifying information technology security, experts said, could allow the exchanges to open with security flaws or force them to postpone when they begin to enroll people in health insurance.

McConnell faces pressure from some conservative Republicans who are threatening a government shutdown on Oct. 1 unless legislation is enacted to deny federal funding for the health care law.

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