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HIX Bedeviled By Tech, Resource Hurdles

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, July 23, 2013

Instead, the Data Hub acts more like a giant router, whisking queries between computer systems to minimize the copying and aggregation of personally-identifiable information (PII) and the potential for its abuse.

At Wednesday's hearing, a number of members of Congress did not seem reassured by these safeguards, and raised a host of other questions that seem to require some fancy footwork to be answered by Oct. 1.

For instance, if an employer offers an employee health insurance through its own plan, how are the state and federal exchanges able to know if an employee has refused that offer of insurance?

CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner made no friends at the hearing by not having a good answer for that question. Instead she suggested that HHS will work with Equifax, the consumer credit reporting agency, which is being considered to verify, for the federal government, such employer offers to employees through a process yet to be defined.

Congressman Pat Meehan (R-PA) noted that one-third of privacy breaches originate with employees; in effect, they're inside jobs. Then he noted that the state of California plans on hiring 22,000 "navigators" to assist consumers purchasing health insurance. "I fear our government is about to embark on an overwhelming task," Meehan warned.

Tavenner and other officials from the IRS, the General Accounting Office, and CMS kept their cool even when the Republican questioning came to resemble, in Speier's words, a "witch hunt." During too many opportunities, a substantive discussion was put on hold while members of Congress revisited the IRS' recent misadventures in non-healthcare related areas.

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