New health system must prevent ID theft

Hopefully, President Barack Obama’s administration has sufficiently guarded against the possibility that Americans who seek advice about the national health care law – which kicks in tomorrow – will fall victims to identity theft.

In order to learn about how “Obamacare” affects them and possibly to sign up for insurance benefits under it, millions of Americans are likely to use the services of federal contractors being called “navigators.” But some of the companies providing navigator services do not even require criminal background checks of their employees. The potential for navigators with larceny on their minds to use information they obtain to steal clients’ money is obvious.

Some companies and organizations that initially accepted federal money to act as navigators are returning the funds, claiming they have been pressured unfairly over their programs. A Florida company made national news by returning $800,000 in navigator funding because there was “too much scrutiny” of the program. It “requires us to allocate resources which we cannot spare and will distract us from fulfilling our obligations to our clients,” a company official said.

Americans ought to applaud those who insist navigators be concerned about clients’ security. Those who consider that a distraction have no business being involved in the program.

Still, there is concern that the existing scrutiny isn’t enough and that the administration hasn’t paid it enough attention. Weeks ago, 13 states’ attorneys general sent Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius a letter asking for information on security safeguards regarding navigators. She did not even acknowledge receipt of the letter.

On Sept. 18, after months of hearing concerns expressed about this problem, Obama called a high-level meeting to discuss it. Secretary Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder were among those in attendance.

It is hard to imagine they had time to add much meaningful security before Obamacare begins for most people tomorrow. Hopefully, what’s aready in place is enough.