What Is HealthCare.gov For?

 

Healthcare.gov was hacked. Of course it was. The website’s lax security has been known since before the launch date (if you can call it that). HHS tells us the “website was not specifically targeted,” so I guess we’re supposed to be reassured that those responsible didn’t mean to break into the website, they just happened to stumble across it on a stroll through IP address space.

Forcing the entire population to buy health insurance is a massive task, a job which sounds like something a broadly functional website might be well-suited for. However, its failure was inevitable from the moment of its conception: it was created for compliance with the law and its subsequent enforcement, not to provide a helpful and secure service to customers, any more than self-driving cars were created to finish your crossword puzzle.

The website’s failed initial launch was a problem because — if it wasn’t available — the IRS couldn’t legitimately enforce penalties for non-compliance. Solution: get it back up and functional from the government’s perspective. Security is not part of that equation.

Furthermore, when a data breach happens, the website continues on or is down temporarily if the breach damages the site’s functions. But the law continues on. A security breach creates no cost to politicians or bureaucrats because the website’s existence has infinitely more to do with following the law than with serving the needs and security of users.  If information security were necessary for a law to serve a power’s purposes, the Social Security Number system would have been discarded decades ago.

Laws which require banks and companies like Target to notify consumers of stolen personal data do not apply to the HHS (though some states are required to disclose breaches). This means there is no danger of popular accountability for being careless with the personal information of the citizens forced into this system.

In this case, the HHS released a public statement that says they don’t think this breach resulted in lost personal information. I’m inclined to believe them: if the HHS officials knew that citizens’ personal information had been lost, we’d have never heard a peep. On the other hand, if you think this administration has a good understanding of the reality of any given situation, I’ve got a shrine in Iraq I’d like to sell you.

The IRS is another lesson in how power uses technology. Want to know what a $1.8B IT budget buys you? At worst, immunity; at best, it gets you all the tools and tech-toadies necessary to secure yourself from the threat of public oversight.

Last year, President Obama was rightly mocked for his urge to his cabinet members to “use all the technology at their disposal” to make “smarter government.” I wonder if he considers this goal achieved. What goes unreported is the fact that “smarter government” has nothing to do with its subjects, only achieving the government’s own goals.

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  1. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Eric Wallace: What’s it for?

    The web site doesn’t need to work for the federal government to impose thousands of pages of regulations on States, insurers, employers, and individuals.  The web site was needed to keep States, insurers, employers, and individuals from opposing the legislation too vociferously prior to its being passed.

    • #1
  2. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    FORWARD!

    • #2
  3. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Gee, thanks.  One more reason to lose sleep at night.

    • #3
  4. user_337201 Inactive
    user_337201
    @EricWallace

    Misthiocracy:

    Eric Wallace: What’s it for?

    The web site doesn’t need to work for the federal government to impose thousands of pages of regulations on States, insurers, employers, and individuals. The web site was needed to keep States, insurers, employers, and individuals from opposing the legislation too vociferously prior to its being passed.

     Absolutely. Obamacare is a behemoth, of which the web site was only intended to address a portion (You had one job!). If it didn’t work, it’s entirely possible the IRS would’ve handed out penalties anyway. However if they did, the resulting backlash might have undermined the whole thing so the calculation might follow my scenario (can’t legitimately enforce).

    • #4
  5. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Eric Wallace: owever, its failure was inevitable from the moment of its conception: it was created for compliance with the law and its subsequent enforcement, not to provide a helpful and secure service to customers, any more than self-driving cars were created to finish your crossword puzzle.

    Why, it’s almost as if incentives matter! ;)

    • #5
  6. user_337201 Inactive
    user_337201
    @EricWallace

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Eric Wallace: owever, its failure was inevitable from the moment of its conception: it was created for compliance with the law and its subsequent enforcement, not to provide a helpful and secure service to customers, any more than self-driving cars were created to finish your crossword puzzle.

    Why, it’s almost as if incentives matter! ;)

     Markets are everywhere, even if it’s just in DC!

    • #6
  7. mwupton@gmail.com Lincoln
    mwupton@gmail.com
    @MattUpton

    I didn’t sign up through the website for various reasons: security, mistrust, young male arrogance. 

    I am, well, interested to say the least, how my current uninsured status will affect my taxes next year. (Can I say I’m an undocumented health consumer?)

    • #7
  8. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    This is not about insurance.  It is about government control of its citizens hiding behind a veneer of insurance ostensibly for health care.  Anyone who believes that this is about health care needs a laxative.

    • #8
  9. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    Thess: I am, well, interested to say the least, how my current uninsured status will affect my taxes next year.

     According to healthcare.gov:

    If you or your dependents don’t have insurance that qualifies as minimum essential coverage you’ll pay whichever of these amounts is higher:

    • 1% of your yearly household income. (Only the amount of income above the tax filing threshold, $10,150 for an individual, is used to calculate the penalty.) The maximum penalty is the national average premium for a bronze plan.
    • $95 per person for the year ($47.50 per child under 18). The maximum penalty per family using this method is $285.

    The way the penalty is calculated, a single adult with household income below $19,650 would pay the $95 flat rate. A single adult with household income above $19,650 would pay an amount based on the 1% rate. (If income is below $10,150, no penalty is owed.)

    The penalty increases every year. In 2015 it’s 2% of income or $325 per person. In 2016 and later years it’s 2.5% of income or $695 per person. After that it’s adjusted for inflation.

    • #9
  10. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    Eric Wallace: it was created for compliance with the law and its subsequent enforcement

    Except you’re not required to buy insurance through the site, you can still get it from your employer or directly from an insurance company.  The law just requires that you have insurance that meets federal standards.

    The real purpose of healthcare.gov is to sell subsidized insurance based on your income.  That’s the only way the “Affordable Care Act” actually makes health care more affordable — the government picks up part of the tab.

    • #10
  11. user_337201 Inactive
    user_337201
    @EricWallace

    Joseph Stanko:

    Eric Wallace: it was created for compliance with the law and its subsequent enforcement

    Except you’re not required to buy insurance through the site, you can still get it from your employer or directly from an insurance company. The law just requires that you have insurance that meets federal standards.

    The real purpose of healthcare.gov is to sell subsidized insurance based on your income. That’s the only way the “Affordable Care Act” actually makes health care more affordable — the government picks up part of the tab.

    Sure, my contention isn’t that the law relies entirely on the website. As I said above, it’s a behemoth with many points (of possible failure). However if the federal website wasn’t available for the public, there was no doubt attempts to enforce the law would be questionable and potentially damaging to the entire enterprise.

    Healthcare.gov was advertised, among other things, as a catch-all for those who were dropped from their previous policies, didn’t have an employer to provide them insurance, didn’t happen to reside in a state that set-up their own exchange web site, etc.

    • #11
  12. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    Eric Wallace: However if the federal website wasn’t available for the public, there was no doubt attempts to enforce the law would be questionable and potentially damaging to the entire enterprise.

    Legally I doubt it would matter, but I agree it would have been a PR disaster — or I should say an even bigger PR disaster than it already was.

    • #12

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