Topics: Obamacare

Examiner Editorial: Obama programs invade privacy on a grand scale

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Editorial,Obamacare,Health and Human Services,Medicare and Medicaid,Big Government,CFPB,Kathleen Sebelius,Civil Rights,Privacy

Officials with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are monitoring 80 percent of Americans' credit cards and 95 percent of their mortgages. The Department of Health and Human Services is collecting “social and behavioral” data for patients' health care records. These are the latest additions to the deeply personal information that federal bureaucrats have been empowered to access in recent years under programs initiated by President Obama. Intrusions into the privacy of individuals and families on this scale are without warrant for a government that is supposed to be limited.

The CFPB, the ironically named entity created by the Dodd-Frank Act within the Federal Reserve, is conducting its intrusive activities through a data-mining program that Wisconsin Republican Rep. Sean Duffy described during a recent House Financial Services Committee hearing as a “step closer to a Big Brother form of government.” Bureau Director Richard Cordray refused to say during the hearing how many credit cards his agency is monitoring or to provide other details about the program, but he stoutly denied any parallel between it and the surveillance activities of the National Security Agency. Americans who are uneasy knowing the NSA has been collecting their phone records and metadata, however, may well view CFPB monitoring their credit cards and mortgage payments as just more cogs in the Big Government machine.

Across the government street at HHS, the Obamacare program says public health departments need access to patients' electronic health records. The program is “totally voluntary,” according to HHS, but Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement fees paid to health care providers will be cut by 1 percent every year starting in 2015 for failing to gather the data. The data includes patients' “behavioral health, dental care, and drug and alcohol use.” With doctors already required to report smokers and Obama's executive action requiring that doctors ask patients whether they own a firearm, the scope of personal information going into the government's computers through the Obamacare data hub has sailed past the boundary defining “Big Brother” territory.

Another problem with the data hub is that it will give access to individuals' Social Security numbers and tax information to "navigators," people who are being hired to guide people through the Obamacare maze after getting a mere 20 hours of online training. These sherpas, presumably drawn from the ranks of the unemployed, will be paid $58 per Obamacare application and $25 per annual renewal. The government insists there's no need to worry about their discretion or trustworthiness. As HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a recent White House conference, “We're sending a clear message that we will not tolerate anyone seeking to defraud consumers in the health insurance marketplace. We have strong security safeguards in the marketplace to protect people's personal information against fraud, and we will work with our partners to aggressively prosecute bad actors, just as we have been doing in Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.”

Curiously, the same government demanding that health care providers collect all that personal data recently conceded that the Obamacare data hub, which the navigators will use to enroll people in federal health exchanges, is not yet capable of verifying income and identify information provided by applicants for premium subsidies.

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