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News Analysis: Problems continue for Obamacare amid hacking fears

English.news.cn   2014-01-21 07:13:33

By Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- Problems continue amid the rollout of U.S. President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul, or Obamacare, with experts contending that the new law's centerpiece website is an easy target for hackers.

Obama's healthcare rollout has faced myriad hurdles since the Oct. 1 launch of healthcare.gov, through which potential buyers can choose from various healthcare plans. But the website has been plagued by myriad technical glitches, and experts continue to warn the site is not secure.

Cyber security experts warned members of the House Science Committee last week that the site has a long road ahead before it is secure, and expressed major concerns about the safety of people 's personal details.

David Kennedy, founder of tech security firm TrustedSec, told the hearing last Thursday the site has not improved in recent months, although Teresa Fryer, chief information security officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the site is up to par on security requirements.

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Kennedy said he could access 70, 000 records of various people who signed up for healthcare on the site within 4 minutes without actually hacking the site.

And because healthcare.gov is linked to the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security, a hacker could access information about Obamacare enrollees that those departments have.

"It's one of the largest websites in history...that has this kind of access into our personal lives," he told host Chris Wallace on Sunday.

It could be disastrous for the Obama administration if the website forming the centerpiece of the president's signature healthcare law proved vulnerable to hackers.

"Any breach of the website during open enrollment would be catastrophic, not just for its impact on enrollment, but for public confidence in government competence," Geoffrey Joyce, director of health policy at the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California, told Xinhua.

"The website problems this fall have made many question whether the government is capable of efficiently implementing a large- scale public policy like Obamacare. Any more screw ups, including a target-like security breach, would be hard to overcome," Joyce said.

Security is the latest in a growing list of concerns over the implementation of Obamacare. It comes after an estimated 4 million Americans were dropped by their insurance providers, as their plans failed to meet Obamacare's new guidelines, despite Obama's repeated promises that those who liked their healthcare plans could keep them.

Website glitches have stalled the healthcare law's implementation, with the administration announcing Tuesday an extension on the deadline for enrollment for those with pre- existing health conditions. The deadline will be delayed to mid- March from the initially scheduled Jan. 31, marking the second delay of the deadline.

Other experts said that since Obamacare's passage into law, many timelines have been compressed, not allowing enough time for such a massive project one that involves federal and state agencies as well as private contractors to properly take shape.

Editor: Yamei Wang
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