Website security issues, higher premiums, and cancelled plans – oh my!
Americans continue to be haunted by the monstrosity that is Obamacare.
Let’s start with the security risks the Healthcare.gov website poses.
First, the unheeded warning…
An internal memo from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, written just a few days before the start of open enrollment, told of a “high” security risk due to lack of testing of the HealthCare.gov website:
Due to system readiness issues, the SCA (security control assessment) was only partly completed. This constitutes a risk that must be accepted and mitigated to support the Marketplace Day 1 operations.
The memo was provided in response to a request from the House Oversight Committee. It goes on to explain that CMS would create a “dedicated security team” to monitor the risk, conduct weekly scans and within 60 to 90 days after the website went live, “conduct a full-scale SCA test.”
But the website was opened for business anyway.
The site also had a security hole that the Department of Health supposedly fixed last week. That “hole” allowed anyone to easily reset your Healthcare.gov password without your knowledge and potentially hijack your account.
That glitch was discovered by Ben Simo, a software tester in Arizona. He found that gaining access to people’s accounts was frighteningly simple. A potential hacker could have:
- guessed an existing user name, and the website would have confirmed it exists.
- claimed you forgot your password, and the site would have reset it.
- viewed the site’s unencrypted source code in any browser to find the password reset code.
- plugged in the user name and reset code, and the website would have displayed a person’s three security questions (your oldest niece’s first name, name of favorite pet, date of wedding anniversary, etc.).
- answered the security questions wrong, and the website would have spit out the account owner’s email address — again, unencrypted.
Attorney Tom Dougall experienced that “glitch” firsthand. A few days ago, he got a call from a man in North Carolina who said he could access all of Tom and his wife’s personal information:
“I believe somehow the ACA, the Healthcare website has sent me your information, is what it looks like,” said Justin Hadley, a North Carolina resident who could access Tom’s information on healthcare.gov. “I think there’s a problem with the wrong information getting to the wrong people.”
In a telephone interview with WMBF News, Hadley said he simply put in his username and password, and Dougall’s information appeared:
“The next page that came up was a page that prompted that I have a marketplace eligibility information to download. And that’s when I clicked download and Mr. Dougall’s information came up in a PDF document,” said Hadley.
“And you can see that he’s actually signed in as Justin and it tells him he has notices about his marketplace eligibility and to download those and when he downloads it, the next screen shot shows him my personal information,” Dougall said.
Now Hadley cannot sign up for the coverage he needs because he’s been blocked by Tom’s personal information.
“I’m assuming I’m going to have to pay the penalty or tax or whatever they’re calling it now for not having health insurance next year,” said Hadley.
Dougall does not know how to secure his information, and there doesn’t seem to be plan in place to handle security issues like the one he experienced:
We’re told constantly that it’s a secure system and it’s not, obviously. I tried to call healthcare.gov last night and they have no procedure whatsoever to handle security breaches. All they can do is try to sell you a policy. They’re so concerned with trying to fix the problems they currently have that they refuse to acknowledge or won’t acknowledge that there’s been a major breach.
On to the next debacle – the spreading plague of cancelled plans.
So far, at least 3.5 million Americans have been issued insurance plan cancellations, according to the Associated Press. The exact number of those who will be impacted is still unclear, but according to health care economist Christopher Conover, 68 percent of Americans with private health insurance will not be able to keep their plan if Obamacare is fully implemented.
Conover is a research scholar in the Center for Health Policy & Inequalities Research at Duke University and an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. In an interview with The Daily Caller, he explained what he thinks the ultimate outcome of Obamacare will be:
“Bottom line: of the 189 million Americans with private health insurance coverage, I estimate that if Obamacare is fully implemented, at least 129 million (68 percent) will not be able to keep their previous health care plan either because they already have lost or will lose that coverage by the end of 2014,” he said in an email. “But of these, ‘only’ the 18 to 50 million will literally lose coverage, i.e., have their plans entirely taken away. This includes 9.2-15.4 million in the non-group market and 9-35 million in the employer-based market. The rest will retain their old plans but have to pay higher rates for Obamacare-mandated bells and whistles.”
Matthew Fleischer is a healthy 34-year-old with a taxable income right around the Obamacare subsidy level. He had a relatively inexpensive catastrophic health insurance plan from Blue Shield with a $30 co-pay. Last month he received a letter from his insurance provider notifying him that his plan was “no longer available” due to “new requirements for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.” He’s being switched to the closest equivalent plan under the new California health exchange – with a monthly premium increase of nearly 43% to $214 a month. He thought the price increase would bring better coverage. Not so.
His maximum out-of-pocket expense was $4,900 under his old plan, but the new one raises that to $6,350. Doctor visit co-pays will double, and urgent care co-pays will quadruple. If he decides to opt for a less expensive plan, he’ll lose his dental coverage.
Some Americans will experience participating hospital and healthcare provider issues. On the surface, the marketplaces appear to offer tens of thousands of different policies with a wide range of coverage. The network of covered doctors and hospitals is narrow, though, and that is bad news for residents in certain regions. For example, Concord, New Hampshire, only has one hospital, and it won’t accept any policies offered by the marketplaces. Patients on an Obamacare plan who want to see a doctor, specialist or primary care provider affiliated with the hospital will have to pay out of pocket. The closest in-network hospital is in Manchester – 25 miles away.
A survey done by PriceWaterhouse Cooper found that 43% of those surveyed considered the cost of the policy the most important factor when they pick a health insurance plan.
But for some, losing access to their current healthcare providers may have tragic consequences.
In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, California resident Edie Littlefield Sundby says she is one of the ACA “losers”. She’s losing her current coverage and will lose access to some of the doctors and facilities that have been crucial to her survival:
For almost seven years I have fought and survived stage-4 gallbladder cancer, with a five-year survival rate of less than 2% after diagnosis. I am a determined fighter and extremely lucky. But this luck may have just run out: My affordable, lifesaving medical insurance policy has been canceled effective Dec. 31.
My choice is to get coverage through the government health exchange and lose access to my cancer doctors, or pay much more for insurance outside the exchange (the quotes average 40% to 50% more) for the privilege of starting over with an unfamiliar insurance company and impaired benefits.
Two things have been essential in my fight to survive stage-4 cancer. The first are doctors and health teams in California and Texas: at the medical center of the University of California, San Diego, and its Moores Cancer Center; Stanford University’s Cancer Institute; and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
The second element essential to my fight is a United Healthcare PPO (preferred provider organization) health-insurance policy.
What happened to the president’s promise, “You can keep your health plan”? Or to the promise that “You can keep your doctor”? Thanks to the law, I have been forced to give up a world-class health plan. The exchange would force me to give up a world-class physician.
For a cancer patient, medical coverage is a matter of life and death. Take away people’s ability to control their medical-coverage choices and they may die. I guess that’s a highly effective way to control medical costs. Perhaps that’s the point.
Many more, like Bob Laszewski, are experiencing sticker shock.
Laszewski, who runs a consulting firm for big insurance companies, wrote this in his blog:
I have been in this business for 40 years. I know junk health insurance when I see it and I know “Cadillac” health insurance when I see it.
Right now I have “Cadillac” health insurance. I can access every provider in the national Blue Cross network––about every doc and hospital in America––without a referral and without higher deductibles and co-pays. I value that given my travels and my belief that who your provider is makes a big difference. Want to go to Mayo? No problem. Want to go to the Cleveland Clinic? No problem. Need to get to Queen’s in Honolulu? No problem.
So, I get this letter from my health plan. It says I can’t keep my current coverage because my plan isn’t good enough under Obamacare rules. It tells me to go to the exchange or their website and pick a new plan before January 1 or I will lose coverage.
First, the best I can get in a Blue Cross network plan are HMOs or HMO/Point-of-Service plans. In the core network those plans offer, I would have to go to fewer providers than I can go to now in the MD/DC/VA market. And, the core network has no providers beyond my area. I can go to the broader Blues network but only if I pay another big deductible for out-of-network coverage.
Now, my plan covers about everything. Never had a procedure for either my wife or myself turned down. Wellness benefits are without a deductible. It covers mental health, drugs, maternity, anything I can think of.
The new plan would have a deductible $500 higher than the one I now have and a lot more if I go “out-of-network” inside the rest of the Blue Cross national network.
And, wait all you people telling me rate shock does not exist, the new far more restricted plan costs 66% more than our current monthly premium. Mr. Rate Shock got rate shocked––and benefit shocked to boot.
There are other plans on the exchange (Maryland is one of the few that work) but every comparable plan had much higher premiums.
Mr. President: I really like my health plan and I would like to keep it. Can you help me out here?
The website MyCancellation.com is collecting stories and notices from Americans who have received the Ominous Letter.
Meanwhile, lies, spin, and distortions about Obamacare continue to infest the media.
Rep. Sander Levin, top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said that insurance companies aren’t really sending out cancellation letters – they are just helping people “transition” into Obamacare.
The New York Times has presented a new defense for Obama’s repeated lie about being able to “keep your plan” – they say he “misspoke”.
And last Wednesday, Obama blamed insurance companies for the canceled plans:
“One of the things health reform was designed to do was to help not only the uninsured but also the under-insured,” Obama said. “And there are a number of Americans, fewer than 5 percent of Americans, who’ve got cut-rate plans that don’t offer real financial protection in the event of a serious illness or an accident.
“Remember, before the Affordable Care Act, these bad apple insurers had free rein every single year to limit the care that you received or used minor pre-existing conditions to jack up your premiums or bill you into bankruptcy.”
Perhaps the most horrifying thing of all, though, is that some politicians think they know what is best for all of us, and that we can’t think for ourselves:
Lily Dane is a staff writer for The Daily Sheeple, where this first appeared. Her goal is to help people to “Wake the Flock Up!”