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Obamacare terms and conditions allow personal data to be shared

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Doctor-with-female-patientIt turns out the Affordable Care Act has larger issues facing it than just navigating through the site. It also appears to have some major privacy issues in at least one state that’s participating in the exchange.

Conservatives’ favorite phrase to describe the Affordable Care Act is “not ready for prime time,” and the problems many are having just getting on the HealthCare.gov website show why.

The Weekly Standard’s Jeryl Bier decided to give it a try and actually had the patience to subject himself to the mind-numbing, interminable process. He eventually reached a point where he was required to check a box to indicate he’d read, understood and agreed to the site’s privacy policy.

We’ve all seen these requirements before. Each time we update our software, pay our American Express bill or buy something on iTunes, we have to check a box. No one actually reads the terms and conditions — they go on forever. We just check the box and go on with our business. Bier actually took the time to read them, and after what he found, maybe I’ll start doing the same.

After listing terms one might expect, the policy said, “we may share information provided in your application with the appropriate authorities for law enforcement and audit activities.”

Because the site doesn’t define exactly what constitutes “appropriate authorities,” someone may be inclined to shoot an email off for clarification — then again, maybe not.

The site’s policy on email communications stipulates:

If you send us an e-mail, we use the information you send us to respond to your inquiry. E-mail correspondence may become a public record. As a public record, your correspondence could be disclosed to other parties upon their request in accordance with Maryland’s Public Information Act.

As The Weekly Standard reported, such emails “could conceivably involve private matters regarding finances, health history, and other sensitive issues.” Do we really want them to become a part of the “public record” and presumably available to anyone via a Freedom Of Information Act request?

Bier encountered the policy while on Maryland’s health insurance exchange, Maryland’s Health Connection. In a previous post, Bier said the exchange gave him a “no doctors are found” message, with this explanation:

Search for your physician. If you are interested in understanding which health plans a particular doctor participates in, please visit https://providersearch.crisphealth.org  – a new service sponsored by Maryland Health Connection. For the time being, doctors and other providers are not yet available in Maryland Health Connection; therefore, if you choose to search for them on the website, you will receive a message that “no doctors are found” message.

obamacareMaryland is considered something of a poster child for Obamacare — it planned early, developed and tested its online exchange software over the summer and gave it a clean bill of health. The state also trained over 5,000 “navigators,” according to RedState.

Yet through it all, Bier reported that as of noon, Oct. 7, the state had signed up only 326 people.

If that’s Maryland’s record, what chance do the rest of us have?

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