SNAFU, FUBAR, ClusterF--k: Welcome to the Rollout of the Affordable Care Act
It isn't a question of the sites being totally secure in order to open. A loophole in a 2002 law governing the security of government websites will allow the Health and Human Services chief information officer to sign off on opening the exchanges even if the level of security isn't totally up to snuff.
In short, political considerations may enter into the decision of whether to open the insurance exchanges despite known vulnerabilities. The PR disaster of delaying the opening of the exchanges could very easily outweigh the security concerns that might still be present due to the rush to get things done.
Even if the IT people meet their deadlines and everything is secure, that won't prevent low-level government workers and even total strangers from accessing someone's personal information. It will be part of the job of bureaucrats to eventually vet the information being supplied by consumers, such as income levels and citizenship status.
Then there are the tens of thousands of "navigators" who will be assisting consumers who need help in signing up. They, too, will have access to some of your information in order to help you sign up for the right insurance plan, get the subsidy you are eligible for, and generally speed you on your way.
The most vulnerable point for hackers will be the data hub itself. The Obama administration has said that "the hub will not store consumer information, but will securely transmit data between state and federal systems to verify consumer application information."
But a regulatory notice filed by the administration in February tells a different story.
That filing describes a new "system of records" that will store names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, taxpayer status, gender, ethnicity, email addresses, telephone numbers on the millions of people expected to apply for coverage at the ObamaCare exchanges, as well as "tax return information from the IRS, income information from the Social Security Administration, and financial information from other third-party sources."
"The federal government is planning to quietly enact what could be the largest consolidation of personal data in the history of the republic," noted Stephen Parente, a University of Minnesota finance professor. Now doesn't that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?
One devoutly wishes this train wreck could be defunded, defrocked, demobilized, and destroyed. But even if the Futility Caucus in the Republican House were successful in shutting down the government, the Obamacare juggernaut would continue to roll forward. It may be hard for some Republicans to accept, but there it is. The current justification is that shutting down the government will give heart to the base and "prove" that the Republican in Congress really, truly, cross-their-heart-and-hope-to-die want to repeal Obamacare. One would think that 40 votes to repeal the law would convince most rational people, but when it comes to Obamacare, rational left the building long ago.
The argument is bizarre. Republicans in Congress should shut down the government to prove they're as irrational as their base? Forget the political fallout. If you don't want to believe the GOP will be blamed for a government shutdown, fine. How about responsible governance? It is an extreme, radical, unnecessary, and ultimately self-defeating gesture to shut down the government when the purported objective for doing so -- defunding Obamacare -- cannot be accomplished. Cheering up or firing up the base is not a legitimate reason to take such a drastic step.
No matter. The American people may very well destroy Obamacare before the fantasies of some Republicans are realized. Who is going to trust the government when they say that the exchanges are secure? Would they even tell us if there was a breach? And if the government's expectations for millions of young invincibles to sign up in order to offset the cost of insurance for the sick isn't realized because the youngsters are smart enough not to fool with a website that has gaping security vulnerabilities, the whole system could collapse of its own weight before it's barely off the ground.
The incompetence of government may yet rescue us from this monstrosity of a law.