Widespread fears that Affordable Care Act exchanges would fail to guard customer information are already coming true in California, where the state exchange is giving selected insurance agents customer contact information, resulting in unwanted calls and emails to Californians who have checked out the exchange but declined to buy insurance.
The Los Angeles Times’ Chad Terhune reports that Covered California, which Obamacare proponents have held up as a rare example of a functioning state health care exchange, provides names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of customers who did not ask to be contacted.
“[Y]our contact information was provided to me by Covered California since your application is not yet finalized, however, you have been determined as eligible by Covered California,” an email sent to one outraged Californian began.
Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee told the paper that the unwanted contacts were necessary because the exchange, which claims to have signed up 80,000 people in insurance plans and qualified another 140,000 for Medicaid, is falling behind in its enrollment goals.
“I can imagine some people may be upset,” Lee offered.
The Golden State maintains a network of 7,700 technically private insurance agents to promote its health care exchange. The Times contacted agents who expressed outrage or conceded that the calls could be irksome to customers. The president of the California Association of Health Underwriters told the paper he was “shocked and dumbfounded” by the news and had assumed the customers on the call list requested contact.
“For a government agency to release this information to an outside person is a major issue,” a Ventura County tech consultant, who recieved an unwanted outreach, told the paper.
Both the federal government and the states, with California usually leading the way, closely monitor private companies’ policies around contacting prospective customers. Companies that do not enjoy close connections with powerful government agencies are under pressure to provide straightforward terms of service agreements, while telemarketers are required to maintain “do not call” lists and other assurances against harassment.
Lee told the Times Covered California does not share sensitive information such as Social Security numbers and maintained that the practice is legal.
Covered California’s media office did not reply to a request for comment from The Daily Caller. A call to the exchange’s main line went to a hold recording pleading high call volume.