MD’s Health Exchange Leaking Information

Cropped SingleCare logo By | November 6, 2015

Maryland’s Health Exchange has run into trouble once again. After a string of problems with its website, a state audit has discovered that the database storing Social Security numbers wasn’t nearly secure enough. Millions in funds have been wasted.

The Washington Post reports that the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange (MHBE) insecurely stored Social Security numbers and other customer information, leaving incredibly sensitive personal data vulnerable to cyber attacks. Adding insult to injury, the exchange awarded millions of dollars in contracts and did little to control the way in which the money was spent.

The state’s health exchange has been beset with problems from the very beginning — the site crashed immediately after its launch in 2013, leading the Baltimore Sun to call it “one of the most troubled websites in the nation.” It is intended to provide a marketplace for individuals, families, and small businesses to purchase affordable health coverage and reduce the number of uninsured people in Maryland. According to the official Audit Report:

MHBE did not appropriately safeguard certain sensitive personally identifiable information and federal tax information residing on its replacement Exchange System, and did not ensure such information still in the custody of vendors responsible for the original Exchange System was being properly secured. Furthermore, user access to the replacement Exchange System network, application files, and servers was not properly restricted.

Carried out by the state Office of Legislative Audits, the review covered information for the MHBE between June 1, 2011, and July 23, 2014. While no breach has been discovered, this kind of insecurity is still troubling for the hundreds of thousands of Marylanders who use the exchange to purchase their health insurance plans.

Persistent Technical Problems

This is only one of multiple instances in which the exchange has fallen into hot water. The beleaguered marketplace has been accused of “loose spending and rushed decision-making,” as the Washington Post puts it. The state “hurried to help enact President Obama’s ambitious federal health-care overhaul” and in its rush didn’t tie up loose technical and security-based ends.

In January 2014, the exchange suffered a glitch that failed to capture 5,000 of those who had gone through the enrollment process on its system, prompting the state to cut ties with the initial contractor. UnitedHealth Group subsidiary Optum/QSSI stepped in as the new contractor, and a replacement exchange system was implemented in November 2014.

Filling in the Gaps

As the health exchange struggles to find its footing, Marylanders don’t need to lose faith in digital’s ability to offer easy access to great healthcare. Neither should they suffer gaps in their current health insurance coverage.

SingleCare provides an affordable healthcare option for individuals with or without insurance. SingleCare reduces a patient’s associated costs by up to 60%. A wide variety of services are available — from general practice to chiropractic and dental — and rates are established upfront, so members will never find a bill with surprise fees weeks after their appointment.

(Main image credit: AppalachianViews/Thinkstock)