The news of the security breaches at retailers Target and Neiman Marcus has been everywhere lately. Millions of people have had their personal identification stolen, including credit card numbers, email and mailing addresses, and phone numbers. If you were affected by either of these security breaches, you are understandably outraged and worried at the thought of cyber criminals having access to your personal information.
Retailers are NOT the Greatest Security Risk
However, we feel there’s an even greater security risk facing you right now, and it does not come from retailers; it comes from using the HealthCare.gov website to purchase health insurance! Sadly, the lack of security on this website has not been made nearly as public as it should be.
According to expert “white hat” hacker (the term used to describe a professional who tests the security of a given computer system by attempting to hack into it) David Kennedy, the HealthCare.gov website is not just weak in a few areas. Instead, the security that should have been built into the system is so negligible as to be nearly non-existent. He predicts that if cyber criminals haven’t already begun hacking into the system, they will be.
Cyber Security Experts Don’t Trust the Exchange
In fact, Kennedy was one of a group of cyber security experts who testified before Congress regarding the security risks for people using the HealthCare.gov website. The majority of the people who testified agreed that the solution to the security issues is to take the website down and start over.
By doing so, the proper security procedures could be built into the website from the ground up—which, of course, is how it should have been done initially! Not surprisingly, these expert opinions did not sway the Obama administration, and the Health Insurance Marketplace remains open for business.
Insurance Navigators Also Create an Additional Risk
The security of your personal information, including your sensitive financial information, is not limited to data you may be transmitting over unsecured connections. You also have to worry about the insurance navigators who have been hired to help you with the process of purchasing health insurance on the exchange.
It turns out that there are no background checks given to people being considered for a navigator position, and there have been incidences where navigators have been shown to have criminal records. In fact, in New Mexico, one in seven navigators has a record!
The only criteria at this point that make a navigator ineligible to provide you guidance on the exchange is a criminal record involving a “significant financial crime,” or presence on a sex offender registry.
Does the Obama Administration Care About Your Security?
I don’t know about you, but I do not want anyone with a criminal record of any kind having access to any of my personal information! I have no idea what makes a financial crime “significant” enough to warrant being excluded from being a navigator, but in my opinion, any previous criminal record should be automatic grounds for disqualification.
However, it doesn’t appear that the Obama administration is really interested in what people like me think. I also think they are banking on the fact that many people do not know much about cyber security and therefore assume that their personal information is safe from criminals.
Last, but certainly not least, I believe the Obama administration also assumes that the majority of the people using the HealthCare.gov website are happy to blindly follow the information they have been provided—even if that information is misleading or just plain wrong.
I do want to make the point, here, that people who do use the health exchanges to purchase health insurance are not stupid. They are instead being led to believe they have no other options. Many people shake their heads and say they are uncomfortable with the lack of security, but they are also under the impression that they must simply grin and bear it—that they have to use the exchange.
Avoid the Health Exchange to Protect Your Information!
I cannot stress enough how important it is to avoid the health exchanges when making your insurance decisions. Having your identity stolen by cyber criminals is no laughing matter, and unless the powers that be in the Obama administration take immediate steps to address the issues we’ve discussed, I can almost guarantee that it will happen.
You do not have to shop on the HealthCare.gov website on your own to make an insurance purchase, even if you do qualify for a premium subsidy. There are licensed insurance professionals who are allowed to sell the same plans that are offered on the exchange, and they can also help you calculate and apply for your subsidy. You can read my article about choosing the right insurance broker if you do not yet have one.
The only way to prevent cyber criminals from accessing and using your personal information is to take steps to keep it out of their hands. Although your personal information will still have to pass through the exchange when an insurance professional helps you, you can be sure that your information goes nowhere else. After all, people who have received a license to sell insurance have passed background checks that are much more extensive than those of any insurance navigator you will find!
Share Your Opinions and Stories!
Do you think the Obama administration takes the threat of a security breach seriously enough? Have you had an experience with a navigator that leaves a bad taste in your mouth? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.
Wiley Long is President of HSA for America, and a passionate advocate for consumer-based solutions that will improve price transparency and lower health insurance and medical costs for people purchasing individual and family health insurance plans.