Despite one’s political affiliations, most would admit that the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA; Obamacare) has been far from smooth. In addition to enrollment difficulties, sticker stock at premium rates, and data entry errors, a new problem has emerged. On October 22, on Fox Business Networks “Cavuto, John McAfee, founder of the anti-virus company McAfee, Inc., pointed out a flaw that could hit many Americans hard in the pocketbook. He said that the online component of Obamacare “is a hacker’s wet dream” that will cause “the loss of income for the millions of Americans who are going to lose their identities.”
McAfee explained that the way that the online component it is set up makes it possible for fake websites be set up to fool people to think they’re signing up for Obamacare. “It’s seriously bad,” said McAfee. He explained, “Somebody made a grave error, not in designing the program but in simply implementing the web aspect of it. I mean, for example, anybody can put up a web page and claim to be a broker for this system. There is no central place where I can go and say, ‘OK, here are all the legitimate brokers, the examiners for all of the states and pick and choose one.’” He continued, “Instead, any hacker can put a website up, make it look extremely competitive, and because of the nature of the system — and this is healthcare, after all — they can ask you the most intimate questions, and you’re freely going to answer them… What’s my Social Security number? My birth date? What are my health issues?”
McAfee cautioned that a quick fix is currently unfeasible; as long as the online component continues in its present state, it is a hacker’s goldmine. He explained, “Here’s the problem: It’s not something software can solve. I mean, what idiot put this system out there and did not create a central depository? There should be one website, run by the government, you go to that website and then you can click on all of the agencies. This is insane. So, I will predict that the loss of income for the millions of Americans who are going to lose their identities; I mean, you can imagine some retired lady in Utah, who has $75,000 dollars in the bank, saving her whole life, having it wiped out in one day because she signed up for Obamacare. And believe me, this is going to happen millions of times. This is a hacker’s wet dream. I mean I cannot believe that they did this.”
Meanwhile, on October 17, The Wall Street Journal noted that the online component of the ACA is generating flawed data that is straining the federal government’s ability to handle even the trickle of enrollees who have been able to access the enrollment process; thus, it is a sign that technological problems extend further than the website traffic and software issues already identified. Executives at a number of health plans note that errors that have surfaced include duplicate enrollments, spouses reported as children, missing data fields, and suspect eligibility determinations, say. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Nebraska said it had to hire temporary workers to contact new customers directly to resolve inaccuracies in submissions. Medical Mutual of Ohio said one customer had successfully signed up for three of its plans. Healthcare analysts believe that the flaws could result in lasting damage to the ACA if consumers are deterred from signing up or mistakenly believe they have obtained coverage.
Take home message:
Whether one is in favor of or opposed to the ACA, many would agree that healthcare reform is needed. ACA proponents say that the current system is the answer, while opponents say it is not. Many opponents favor a one-year postponement of enrollment for individuals—a policy presently in place for large corporations. In view of the present problems with the ACA, it might be prudent to avoid enrolling until all the major glitches have been resolved. In fact, in view of the current difficulty in the enrollment process, this option may be the only feasible one currently available for anyone with limited time available to click and type on his or her computer.