SC man’s ACA case prompts security concerns in DC

The Associated PressNovember 5, 2013 

A South Carolina 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’s upset that federal officials have yet to contact him about the security breach.

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.

“On this incident in South Carolina, we actually were made aware of that yesterday, and 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 said he still doesn’t know the extent of the breach, and he wants his data deleted, adding he will not buy a policy through it.

“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. That’s the part I’m a little angry about,” he said. “I don’t have a political ax to grind. I’m more upset about the security.”

Dougall, who buys his own insurance, said he went to the online marketplace last month out of curiosity, to see if he could save money on a new policy there. It took more than a week for him to successfully go through the application process, he said, but once he did on Oct. 8, he realized his current plan is much cheaper.

He said the lowest-level bronze plan he looked at would have meant a 50 percent increase in premiums, as well as a deductible $5,000 higher, pushing his deductible to about $12,000. And he makes too much to qualify for any subsidies to help offset the increases.

“Unfortunately, you have to fill out the entire application. You can’t just browse and shop,” said Dougall, a retired Army officer.

He thought nothing more of it, he said, until he got home Friday night and played a message from North Carolina resident Justin Hadley, who said he received Dougall’s personal information after trying to log 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. He wasn’t a hacker. He’s just a nice young guy who’s frustrated because now he doesn’t trust the system. I feel really sorry for him.”

In a brief phone interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Hadley confirmed Dougall’s account.

Dougall said he spent 40 minutes on hold with the federal government’s toll-free number Friday night before hanging up, then tried unsuccessfully to get help online. Eventually, he said, he sent emails to Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and his congressmen, Rep. Joel Wilson and Sens. Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham.

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