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Federal Health Benefits Database a Security Risk?

Photo: case-connect.com
Photo: case-connect.com

Last week, along with the announcement of a 7.2 percent increase in healthcare premiums for federal workers, the Office of Personnel Management also introduced a health-claims database to keep tabs on and assess federal employee health-benefit services.

At the time, Government Executive reported federal workers were “disheartened” by the premium increases, which outpaced pay

But now, some critics of the plan, say the collection and organization of personal information could also threaten workers’ privacy, according to a new a report in GovExec.

“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,” according to the GovExec article.

What FEHBP database will store:

Name, Social Security Number, employment information, healthcare provider, insurance and diagnoses of medical conditions

Why privacy advocates are concerned:

So far, there are no details on how the information will be kept secure, or how identifying information will be kept private if the material is used in research.

And, according to the article, other critics maintain the database is simply not necessary, because the information it would aggregate is already kept by individual plan holders.

“OPM is proposing to create one big, centralized database rather than asking the plans to run analyses and give them the answers,” Deven McGraw, director of the Health Privacy Project at the nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology, told GovExec. “Records that used to be in one place are now in two.”

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