CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and attorneys general in 12 other states sent a letter to President Obama's top health official Wednesday, saying they have "grave concerns" about consumers' private information being put at risk under new health insurance marketplaces set to go online this fall.
The attorneys general say federal rules that allow consumer to enroll in the health-care "exchanges" under the Affordable Care Act are "woefully inadequate."
"It is not enough simply to adopt policies against fraud," Morrisey said in a prepared statement. "There are significant holes in the rules [the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] has implemented already. We are very concerned about the risk of identity theft if those holes aren't addressed immediately..."
The new health-care reform law allows groups to hire "navigators" to help consumers enroll in health-insurance plans. The employees will have significant access to consumers' private data, according to Morrisey's news release.
Morrisey said the federal rules fail to ensure the employees receive proper training to safeguard consumer information. The rules also don't make clear who's responsible if someone steals the personal data.
Also, the regulations don't require criminal background checks for the employees, Morrisey said.
"These vague standards could open a Pandora's box of privacy and security issues for consumers, states and even the federal government," Morrisey said. "Consumer privacy will be a catch-as-catch in each program."
The attorneys general ask federal health officials to respond to their concerns by Aug. 28.
Morrisey has said he supports repealing President Obama's new health-care reform law that established the health-care exchanges -- online sites where people can go to sign up for discounted health insurance.
The attorneys general, led by Morrisey, want federal health officials to establish an "on-the-ground plan to secure consumer information, follow up on complaints, and work with law enforcement to prosecute bad counselors," according to their letter to Kathleen Sebelius, health secretary in the Obama administration.
"It seems inevitable that personnel will be inadequately screened and trained, and they will be more prone to misappropriate private data, whether intentionally or unintentionally," Morrisey said. "This is a disaster waiting to happen."
Attorneys general from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas also signed the letter.
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.