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Republicans to Open 2014 with Obamacare Data Theft Bill

Matt Rourke/AP

House Republicans will start the year with legislation aimed at security requirements for Obamacare's health insurance exchanges.

The House next week will consider legislation that would require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to notify consumers whenever a security breach occurs, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced Thursday in a memo to Republicans.

Under present policy, CMS evaluates whether consumer data were at risk when deciding if an issue warrants notification—but Cantor wants to make notification automatic.

"If a breach occurs, it shouldn't be up to some bureaucrat to decide when or even whether to inform an individual that their personal information has been accessed," Cantor said in the memo.

The legislation would address other security concerns, he said, citing Republican Reps Diane Black (Tennessee), Kerry Bentivolio (Michigan), and Gus Bilirakis (Florida) among those who have proposed similar measures.

Security and privacy concerns have been the focus of a handful of hearings on Capitol Hill, where documents revealed that the Health and Human Services Department and contractors involved in the creation were concerned in the days and weeks leading up to the website's launch.

Ultimately the motion is a part of the House Republican goal to repeal and replace the president's health law.

Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, called Cantor's announcement a partisan game.

"[House Republicans] continue to remain intent on undermining or repealing the Affordable Care Act at every turn, and that effort even extends to scaring their constituents from obtaining health coverage," Hammill said in a press release.

The question of data security on the exchanges is hotly contested. Republicans argue the administration is downplaying concerns to protect the law's standing and encourage enrollment, while Democrats argue the GOP is overstating the problems and crafting legislation to bring more attention to them.

In December, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., released part of a classified Health and Human Services Department briefing that reported only 32 security incidents since Oct. 1, none of which involved a successful theft of any information.

Some 2.1 million Americans signed up for private health insurance on the exchanges in time for Jan. 1 coverage, as long as they paid their premiums. The Obama administration has repeatedly said in Congressional hearings that it does not believe consumer data to be at risk because the data hub used by to verify identity and income does not store personal information.

The House returns Tuesday, Jan. 7.

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