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Obamacare data hub a 'honey pot' for ID thieves, warn critics

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Crime,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Obamacare,Health Care,Privacy

The data hub President Obama's health care team is creating to exchange personal health and financial information on Obamacare users will be a ripe target for computer hackers and identity thieves, charge critics who claim it hasn't been tested for security flaws.

"It's the greatest collection of private identification information ever assembled on Americans that will be put into one place," said Rep. Patrick Meehan, who chairs a House cybersecurity subcommittee. "It is every bit of sensitive information one would need to know to completely take over the identification of a person," said the Pennsylvania lawmaker.

The Obamacare data hub, he added, "creates a honey pot and the day that it goes online it is going to be a target for hackers and others and they are unprepared to protect the system."

At an oversight hearing last week, administration officials said that the hub, still under creation, will be used to verify Obamacare applications. It will share information among federal agencies, like the IRS, and state agencies. A separate system will keep store key information such as income, Social Security numbers, email addresses, and even pregnancy status of Obamacare users.

Officials called on the public and Congress to "trust" that the information will be protected from hackers, but several lawmakers balked.

Asked if he trusted the administration to protect the personal health and finance information of Obamacare users, Rep. James Lankford said "No." Lankford explained that "there has not been a testing between all the different agencies. We're now down to right at two months and we don't have a full working test of this and you're talking about opening up a portal from an individual state that will run to multiple different federal agencies and it is a real target for attack." Lankford chaired the Obamacare oversight hearing last week.

Another critic, Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee, said "I don't trust them for a couple of reasons. One is that we have already become skeptical of our government in several other security breaches." Black has introduced legislation to protect the personal information of Americans in the Obamacare program.

Meehan added that "the ability to protect it creates grave concern. I have great concerns."

At the oversight hearing last week, however, Obama officials assured critics that the information collection and sharing systems will be secure.

"I want to assure you and all Americans, that when they fill out their [health insurance] marketplace applications, they can trust the information they're providing is protected," said Marilyn Tavenner, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.