WASHINGTON — Several dozen Democrats joined a unified Republican caucus this morning in passing a bill to protect the security of consumers on Obamacare exchanges — legislation the White House vociferously opposes.
The Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act of 2014, introduced by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), would require the Department of Health and Human Services “to notify individuals, within two business days, of a breach of any security system maintained by a federal or state exchange that is known to have resulted in personally identifiable information being stolen or unlawfully accessed.”
Republicans noted the red flags raised about security vulnerabilities even before the Oct. 1 healthcare.gov launch — concerns that only mounted with the website’s technologically rocky debut.
The bill passed easily, 291-122. Sixty-seven Democrats crossed over to vote with the GOP.
“Americans have the right to know if the president’s health care law has put their personal information at risk, and today’s bipartisan vote reflects that concern,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). “It shouldn’t take an act of Congress for the White House to provide that information, but the lack of transparency surrounding the security of the ObamaCare website has proven that’s the case.”
“The House took an important step to help Americans protect themselves in the event of a security breach, and we will continue our oversight of the president’s healthcare law,” Boehner added. “The Senate ought to bring up this bill and pass it immediately.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hasn’t indicated whether he’ll bring the bill to the floor. It would likely draw the support of at least a handful of Democrats who criticized the Obama administration as unprepared for the healthcare exchange launch. Additionally, a “no” vote on such a simply worded consumer protection clause would reflect poorly among much of the electorate.
But President Obama, while stopping short of using the word “veto,” made clear in a lengthy statement of administration policy from the Office of Management and Budget that the White House opposes the legislation.
“The Federal Government has already put in place an effective and efficient system for securing personally‑identifiable information in the Health Insurance Marketplaces and providing consumers notification if their personally-identifiable information has been compromised. When consumers fill out their online Marketplace applications, they can trust that the information that they are providing is protected by stringent security standards,” read the statement. “The components of the HealthCare.gov website that are now operational comply with Federal security standards. Security testing is conducted on an ongoing basis using industry best practices designed to appropriately safeguard consumers’ personal information.”
“The Administration opposes House passage of H.R. 3811 because it would create unrealistic and costly paperwork requirements that do not improve the safety or security of personally-identifiable information in the Health Insurance Marketplaces. For example, the indiscriminate reporting requirement in H.R. 3811 may seriously impede the law enforcement investigation of a breach. Unlike existing requirements, H.R. 3811 requires expensive and unnecessary notification for the compromise of publicly-available information, even if there is no reasonable risk that information could be used to cause harm,” the administration reaction continued.
“…H.R. 3811 would impose an administratively burdensome reporting requirement that is less effective than existing industry standards and those already in place for Federal Agencies that possess such information. As such, the Administration opposes its passage.”
Today in the White House briefing room, press secretary Jay Carney didn’t respond directly to a question about so many Democrats joining with Republicans for a veto-proof majority on the bill.