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HIX Bedeviled By Tech, Resource Hurdles

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, July 23, 2013

The countdown is on and the make-or-break technology backbone of the government's health insurance exchange is shrouded in questions about security and privacy. One health insurance vendor calls the scenario "a nightmare."

Don't let me give you the impression that technology doesn't have its down side.

It's too complicated. It takes too long to implement. Too often, training is an afterthought. The workforce usually isn't ready for sudden changes. Make the technology too constricting, and clever users will find a way around it, or they'll simply ignore it and go about their business in spite of carefully thought out laws and guidelines.

Recently, I talked with Morgan Hege, who runs an online insurance agency known as HealthInsurancePlus. I asked him how his business is going given the opening up of the health insurance exchanges this fall. He didn't mince words.

"It's a nightmare, because we're waiting on the government, and that's never a good thing," Hege told me.

In the crush of last week's news cycle, reassurances by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that the individual health information exchange will open on time on Oct. 1, 2013, were drowned out by other stories.  

After some digging, I was able to find a YouTube recording of the July 17 House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform hearing on "Evaluating Privacy, Security, and Fraud Concerns", where this reassurance was given. As of Monday, fewer than 300 people had viewed even part of the three-hour YouTube video. [It may be viewed here: Part I and Part II.]

It's a fascinating but painful glimpse into the inner workings and politics of Obamacare's individual health insurance mandate. Whether it also represents a level of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) being generated purely for the political purpose of undermining the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is a tougher call.

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