California to gather data on its Obamacare customers

Covered California is watching!

The Golden State's Obamacare exchange reportedly plans to collect and maintain sensitive insurance company data about its 1.4 million customers to analyze the performance of health plans—and says no customer will be allowed to opt out of the oversight. (Tweet This)

People register for insurance during a health-care enrollment fair at Ambrose Community Center in Bay Point, Calif.
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People register for insurance during a health-care enrollment fair at Ambrose Community Center in Bay Point, Calif.

That level of scrutiny over peoples' drug prescriptions, visits to psychiatrists and gynecologists, and screening tests is raising concerns among privacy experts. But the Covered California insurance marketplace defends the data mining as crucial to making sure insurers and medical provides are doing their jobs correctly under the Affordable Care Act.

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"There is potential for so much public good, but there is a greater public good in protecting privacy and security," Michelle De Mooy, deputy director for consumer privacy at the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington, told the Los Angeles Times.

"I think asking permission is absolutely integral. It is not the state's data."

The Times reported that the state in April signed a five-year contract with Truven Health Analytics to run the database that will store information about customers. Truven Health, which will receive $9.3 million for its work, is set to begin receiving patient data as early as this fall from insurers that sell health plans on the exchange.

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Covered California's executive director, Peter Lee, told the Times that protecting that information is a priority for the exchange and that its customers will be the ones who benefit from the data collection.

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The newspaper said two examples of how Covered California will use the data include tracking the number of diabetics whose conditions are being managed correctly, and the number of cancer screening tests that led to early diagnosis and treatment.

Lee also defended the idea of not allowing customers to opt out of having their medical records kept in the database.

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"To understand the quality of care being provided, you need everybody in," he said. "Without the data, we are only delivering on half of the promise of the Affordable Care Act. We have to get beyond measuring access by anecdote."

Read the full Los Angeles Times story here.