Although the Affordable Care Act employer mandate has been delayed until 2015, the individual mandate is still full-steam ahead for a Jan. 1, 2014 effective date. There’s been some debate and/or skepticism about whether the individual mandate still is enforceable without an employer requirement to accompany it, but the government is working on a super-computer of sorts to keep Americans from slipping through the cracks or sliding under the radar when it comes to buying health insurance.
The super-computer—which is really more of a super-database—is a $267 million system known as the “Hub.” Built by a unit of UnitedHealth Group, the Hub pulls together data from seven federal agencies from the IRS to the Peace Corp that will keep track of which Americans have health insurance and/or are eligible to buy it with a federal subsidy through the exchange system—an estimated 7 million people, according to government estimates. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services will oversee the Hub. The agency aims to have testing complete by Sept. 1.
Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) facetiously asked recently what many ACA watchers are thinking: “It’s information on 300 million Americans, all compiled in one place—what could go wrong?”
Although CMS has assured Hub access will be limited to “authorized CMS personnel [via] password security, encryptions, firewalls and secured operating systems,” there’s no denying the system will be a juicy target for hackers. Further, with seven agencies providing information to the database, that means seven times the risk of error, fraud, privacy violations or all of the above.
As it is, the government already has admitted that Hub will be unable to verify whether people who buy insurance via exchanges are eligible to receive the subsidy by Oct. 1, when the marketplaces start enrolling new members.
We know health care reform is no picnic—in terms of administration or costs. But if your company has opted to continue with benefits business as usual come Jan. 1, this news has got to have you feeling pretty good about your communications burden.