FEHBP database raises privacy concerns

Emily Long reports:

A new Office of Personnel Management database designed to track federal employee health benefit plans could put at risk the personal information of participants, according to privacy advocates.

OPM last week announced plans for a database tool to track and evaluate the quality and cost of services provided through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. According to an Oct. 5 notice in the Federal Register, the health claims data warehouse will centralize information about FEHBP; the National Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Program, which provides coverage to those denied insurance because of a medical condition; and the Multi-State Option Plan.

The tool will collect information such as the enrollee’s name, Social Security number, employment details and information about health care providers, medical diagnoses and insurance coverage. OPM will look at demographic, health and pricing trends across the programs to find ways to reduce costs, the notice said.

[…]

According to the notice, the information could be used in law enforcement proceedings, congressional inquiries or OPM workforce studies. In some cases, individuals could be identified through the data selected, OPM said. Researchers and analysts outside government also could gain access to the information to examine health insurance trends, the notice added. McGraw and Peel both expressed concern that individuals claiming to do research could access sensitive patient data without rules or constraints.

Read more on GovernmentExecutive.com.   There are lots of reasons to be concerned about this database, access to it, and its use.   I share the concerns of the privacy advocates quoted in the full article.

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