Health IT

CMS clears data-sharing hurdles for health insurance hub

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has reached agreements with key government agencies to assess information to confirm applicants' eligibility for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The agreements, required under the Privacy Act of 1974, give CMS access to information from a range of sources that will run on the Data Services Hub – the routing system that transfers information between state and federal insurance marketplaces (formerly known as exchanges) and federal agencies. The Hub is designed to quickly provide information about insurance coverage to applicants by aggregating information on income, citizenship, military service and more.

Throughout August, CMS has been finalizing data matching agreements with the Social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs. Each agreement authorizes CMS to use information from specific agency databases in the Hub as a piece of qualifying information.

For example, information from DHS will be used to verify the citizenship or immigration status of an applicant for health insurance. DOD and VA information will determine whether an applicant has eligibility under a military or VA program. IRS databases will supply information on income and family size.

While the authorization to use the data from other agencies is set, CMS still must conclude Interconnection Security Agreements with participating agencies. These are due to be finalized by Sept. 3. The agreements obligate the connecting agency to comply with CMS security standards, according to a CMS spokesman.

Security testing for the Hub is ongoing, but a final security authorization for the system is not due from the CMS CIO until Sept. 30, one day before the system launches. CMS has come under criticism because of the tight timetable, with many high-profile opponents of the health care law expressing concern that the Hub could go online without adequate security protections in place. Earlier this month, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asked the Government Accountability Office to report on the interoperability of the systems and security of data moving across the Hub.

CMS indicates that the Hub is completed, with testing ongoing since October of last year, and that the agency is "on schedule to be at 100 percent at the beginning of open enrollment," a spokesperson said.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is a staff writer covering Congress, the FCC and other key agencies. Connect with him on Twitter: @thisismaz.

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