Friday, November 12, 2010

OPM Shows Little Concern for Privacy

OPM is making waves with their push toward a national database of health insurance customers. OPM’s argument is that such a database would provide "best value for both enrollees and taxpayers.” They also cite the potential efficiency such a system would offer. OPM also claims that the system would be “de-identified,” supposedly protecting individual customers from the healthcare data-mining that plagues the industry.

However, many are not satisfied with OPM’s vague claims. Harley Geiger, policy counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology, tells Computerworld “[At this point,] there are far too many unknowns about the program for it to be acceptable.” Many questions are raised by the program: Are HIPAA and PHI going to be swirling around cyberspace? Exactly what measures are protecting consumers from data mining?

Most seem to agree that OPM’s notice is entirely too vague to garner any form of support for the new system. OPM’s plans to allow third-parties to access the material, including judicial and research groups, sends up further red-flags.

Until OPM is willing to release more specific information about the program, it is unlikely to be welcomed into the industry. Our concern should be for the protection and safety of consumers and average citizens, not for cost-cutting. If there is even a small potential for someone to profit from selling access of this database to commercial data-miners, then it is unacceptable as a system.


Pam Argeris is a thought leader in the Healthcare Industry and possesses extensive, hands-on experience with CMS compliance, and multiple regulatory bodies such as NCQA, JACHO, and DOI. In her role at Merrill Corp., Pam focuses on developing solutions for compliance and quality assurance, delivered in a cost effective manner to improve beneficiary and prospect communications. You can contact Pam at

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