California insurance commissioner: We could "have a real disaster on our hands" with identify theft, fraud, and abuse

California rushed headlong into the implementation of ObamaCare, eager to be the first model state to show off the many wonderful ways in which the law was ostensibly meant to work. Much like at the national level, however, California is encountering some pretty heady problems as they, too, try to get everything organized by the October deadline by which people are supposed to be able to start signing up for the system’s proffered health insurance choices. Besides the very glaring problems of sharply higher insurance premiums and major insurers fleeing the individual insurance market for via-employer insurance only, their “Covered California” exchange’s administrators are realizing that there’s another predicament in the works. Via the AP:


As California prepares to launch its health care exchange, consumer groups are worried the uninsured could fall victim to fraud, identity theft or other crimes at the hands of some of the very people who are supposed to help them enroll.

The exchange, known as Covered California, recently adopted rules for a network of more than 21,000 enrollment counselors who will provide consumers with in-person assistance as part of the federal Affordable Care Act. In some cases, they will have access to personal and financial information, from ID cards to medical histories.

But the state insurance commissioner and anti-fraud groups say the exchange is falling short in ensuring that the people hired as counselors are adequately screened and monitored.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones also said the exchange does not have a plan for investigating any complaints that might arise once the counselors start work. That means consumers who might fall prey to bogus health care products, identity theft and other abuses will have a hard time seeking justice if unscrupulous counselors get hold of their Social Security number, bank accounts, health records or other private information, he said.

“We can have a real disaster on our hands,” Jones, a Democrat, said in an interview.

Read on for the many and delightful ways in which California is attempting to keep honest the thousands of counselors that will be attempting to enroll over 5 million residents (among them: fingerprinting, background checks, and name badges), but as Jones mentions, it isn’t nearly enough to try and protect against fraud. The state is going to need a more comprehensive plan to follow up on complaints and to work with law enforcement officials to prosecute bad counselors, because the lack thereof is hardly going to inspire confidence in consumers: “Once they’re in that position of trust, it’s possible they will obtain information that will allow them to build the trust they have with the individual they’re working with and potentially sell them all manner of bogus products, steal their identity, gain access to certain assets they might have… The list is virtually endless.” Lovely.


Anyhow, as California struggles to find ways to ensure security and accountability in their state-run system, they still seem to have plenty of time and money to spend on promoting the entire boondoggle:

Funded by $37 million in state grants, four dozen diverse groups from around California — including labor unions, civil-rights advocates, medical clinics and the Los Angeles Unified School District — are preparing to launch education programs promoting Obamacare, the national health-care plan set to take effect in January.

The 48 recipients were selected from about 200 that applied for the grants, chosen for their access and ability to reach the estimated 5.3 million Californians in underserved communities who will be eligible for the subsidized or guaranteed health coverage.

“These organizations are well-established and well- known and trusted in their communities,” said Larry Hicks, a spokesman for Covered California, the state agency established to oversee a marketplace of insurance carriers. “They’ll take a more personal approach in explaining the programs and offerings through our health-insurance exchange.”

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