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House GOP changes tack on Obamacare, focuses on website security

- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 9, 2014

The White House said Thursday it opposes — yet noticeably did not threaten to veto — a pair of House bills that would require the government to issue weekly reports on Obamacare enrollment and quickly notify consumers of any breach of their personal data on state-based insurance markets tied to the law.

The House's GOP majority scheduled votes on the measures for Friday, a move that indicates the party has shifted away from attempts to repeal all or parts of the Affordable Care Act now that millions of Americans have enrolled in private coverage or Medicaid through the health exchanges.

Instead, Republicans are focusing on potential security lapses on the websites and online data hub associated with the law, pointing to October's disastrous technical rollout of the federal portal, healthcare.gov, which serves 36 states.

The security-oriented measures are likely to attract votes from House Democrats, even if Friday's bills are not expected to see the light of day in the Democrat-led Senate. The dynamic may shed light on why the White House's decision not to issue a veto threat.

Even so, President Obama does not support the weekly reporting bill, the Exchange Information Disclosure Act, "because it would require unfunded, unprecedented, and unnecessary reporting requirements of Health Insurance Marketplaces that exceed those of other public and private programs," the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a statement of administrative policy.

Despite a call for more data and transparency, the Obama administration has restricted its release of official Obamacare enrollment data from the 50 states and District of Columbia to about once every 30 days.

The GOP bill "would require the reporting of data on a weekly basis that is generally being provided on a monthly basis," OMB said.

The White House said it cannot support the security bill — Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act of 2014 — because it is unnecessary and imposes unreasonable requirements on the administration.

"The Federal Government has already put in place an effective and efficient system for securing personally‑identifiable information in the Health Insurance Marketplaces and providing consumers notification if their personally-identifiable information has been compromised," OMB said.

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