Policy: Technology

House Democrats help pass GOP bill aimed at Obamacare website

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The Republican-led House on Friday ended it first work week of 2014 on a familiar theme: passing a bill targeting President Obama's health care law.

But unlike most of the past 40-plus bills aimed at Obamacare, a significant number of Democrats joined Republicans to support the measure, which would require the Health and Human Services Department to notify an individual within two business days of any security breach involving personal data provided to the government during health care enrollment.

The measure specifically targets the healthcare.gov website, which has been plagued by troubles since its rollout Oct. 1.

The bill passed 291-122, with 67 Democrats supporting the measure. No Republican voted "no."

Unlike past House GOP bills aimed at Obamacare, the current attempt doesn't try to repeal, replace or undo parts of the law. Instead, Republicans stressed the measure simply would improve the existing system.

"What [the bill] says is the administration has to let victims of identity theft or information theft be notified. That's it," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Ohio. "This is a good government bill."

But Democrats said the measure, which stands no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate, was nothing more than another meaningless GOP pot-shot at Obama's signature legislation.

Democrats added the bill was unnecessary because sufficient security protections already exist for healthcare.gov.

"The fact of the matter is, there have not been any security breaches" for healthcare.gov, said Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. "Once again we're simply seeing the Republicans get up and try to scare people so they don't go and use healthcare.gov."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the bill "silly" because individuals aren't asked to provide sensitive information about their health history on the website.

"There's no personal information — health information — in the system because there's no pre-existing condition provision" in the health care law, Pelosi told reporters on Thursday.

The Obama administration also opposed the bill on the grounds it "would impose an administratively burdensome reporting requirement that is less effective than existing industry standards and those already in place for federal agencies that possess such information."

But Rep. Joseph Pitts, R-Penn., the bill's lead sponsor, accused the White House and Democrats of protecting HHS at the expense of the public.

"I'm frankly shocked that any member of this body would put workload concerns of HHS ahead of their constituents' right to know if their data has been breached," he said. "Our constituents deserve to know if their personal information has been breached."

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