HHS is using the Obamacare exchange website to register applicants to vote. The link provided is optional, but there are many concerns regarding the sharing of personal voter registration information on the website.
Chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee Darrell Issa and House Oversight member Jason Chaffetz fired off a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Monday, requesting information about HHS policies and practices regarding the use of voter registration information.
“While HHS and its contractors continue to struggle with the risk of processing applications, the agency uses the website to collect voter registration information. Once the applicant completes the online application for healthcare coverage, a dialog box appears asking, “would you like to register to vote? In light of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, also known as the Motor Voter Act, which requires any agency that provides public assistance to provide individuals with an opportunity to register to vote, the Department decided to include the voter registration option on the healthcare application. The inclusion of this voter registration may give applicants the impression that registering to vote is somehow tied to receiving health care benefits, such as insurance subsidies.
Given the well documented flaws in the healthcare application process, the public lacks confidence that HHS has the ability to safeguard applicants’ voter information. Documents reviewed by the committee show that applicants may submit personal information over the internet during the application process without encryption potentially exposing personally identifiable information to interception and abuse. As a result, applicants attempting to register to vote, face the possibility of unknowingly making their voter registration information available online. Additionally, applicants face the potential of identity theft or third party access to their personal information. According to one expert, the healthcare exchange application process is viewed as “a huge value target” for hacking an account.
Further it is unclear how HHS uses the voter information it collects once a user submits this data on the website. Applicants rightly expect that only state election officials will have access to their information. Voter registration contains important personal details that are valuable to various individuals and organizations. Considering the problems facing the healthcare website, we are concerned that private information may make it into the hands of organizations who wish to use the information for their benefit, without notifying the individuals registering to vote, or properly obtaining their consent.
Additionally, news reports indicate that insurance companies receive nightly reports with errors and duplicate dates of individuals who have submitted applications for healthcare. In some instances, insurers receive multiple enrollments and cancellations for the same person.
These facts raise questions as to what happens when the same individual expresses the desire to vote multiple times. HHS does not appear to have the capacity to differentiate between duplicates and first time applicants.
They ask that a list of documents and information addressing their concerns be provided to them by noon, November 12.