SC man's case prompts security concerns in DC

The Associated PressNovember 5, 2013 

— A S.C. man said Tuesday he wants his personal information removed from the federal health-care marketplace after his data inadvertently went to a man in North Carolina trying to log onto the government website.

Columbia attorney Thomas Dougall said he is upset federal officials have yet to contact him about the incident.

His case prompted questions in Washington about the security of the website that's been riddled with technical problems since its Oct. 1 launch.

Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner acknowledged the breach Tuesday while testifying before a Senate committee.

“We implemented a software fix yesterday to fix that,” said Tavenner, whose agency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was put in charge of carrying out the Affordable Care Act. “That would be treated as a personal identification issue, and we will do a complete follow-up on that.”

Dougall, a retired Army officer, said he still doesn't know the extent of the breach, and he wants his data deleted.

“All I want is for the information to be removed from their website. It should be a simple computer function, but they won't call me or deal with the problem,” he said. “That's the part I'm a little angry about.”

Dougall, who buys his own insurance, said he went to the online marketplace out of curiosity, to see if he could save money on a new policy. But when he got through the online process Oct. 8, he realized his current plan is much cheaper. And he makes too much to qualify for any subsidies.

He thought nothing more of it, he said, until he got home Friday night and played a message from Burlington, N.C., resident Justin Hadley, who said he received Dougall's personal information after logging on under his username.

At first, Dougall said, he thought Hadley was scamming him for more information. But then Hadley emailed him screen shots.

“He clearly had my information,” Dougall said. “I knew he was legit.”

Hadley had been trying to sign up for a new policy after receiving notice from BlueCross BlueShield that his current plan would no longer exist in 2014. He is among the millions nationwide receiving such notices because their plans don't comply with the Affordable Care Act.

Hadley said last Thursday was the first time he was able to get past the website's login screen. That's when he received links to documents meant for Dougall.

“I couldn't believe what I was seeing,” he said. “After the initial shock wore off, I knew I needed to contact him so he knew what was going on.”

The experience has made him decide to go without health insurance and pay the federal penalty. He no longer trusts the website, and the premiums for the closest plan his insurer suggested cost nearly double, with higher deductibles.

“The way I look at it, I would come out cheaper to save my money,” said Hadley, 29. “I consider myself fairly young and healthy. I rarely go to the doctor anyway.”

He said that by late Monday when he logged in, the links to Dougall's information were gone. He too wants all of his information deleted and someone from the federal agency to call him back.

“This whole experience has been stressful,” he said.

Associated Press writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed from Washington.

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