Obamacare months behind the curve in testing IT security

Obamacare months behind the curve in testing IT securityWhile the Obama administration has consistently dismissed critics of Obamacare who have warned the system is nowhere near meeting deadlines in the law for its implementation, it has now been revealed that the computer systems to be used for Americans to enroll in the system is dangerously behind schedule for testing the security of the system.

While the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2011, many of its provisions were put off for several years in order to give unelected officials time to write rules for its implantation. On Jan. 1, the employee mandate which was upheld by the Supreme Court kicks in and individuals will be required to purchase health care insurance that meets specific requirements by the government. However, on Oct. 1, the state healthcare exchanges are required to be up and running for those wishing to enroll.

The administration has been saying for months that the exchanges will be up and running by the October deadline, however it now appears if it does in fact meet the deadline it will be by the skin of its teeth.

Typically when setting up a large and complicated system involving large amounts of data such as what will occur with the exchanges, companies conduct a series of tests to ensure the system can function properly when it “goes live.” Among the tests are a series of checks to ensure the system is secure and that unauthorized users cannot readily access the system and obtain confidential information such as social security numbers, credit cards, medical records and other information.

The federal government has just announced it will be conducting its own test on the integrity of the system, one full day before its implementation. The problem is this could mean the exchanges will open with major security flaws in their systems or else have their opening delayed.

“They’ve removed their margin for error,” Deven McGraw, director of the health privacy project at the non-profit Center for Democracy & Technology told Reuters. “There is huge pressure to get (the exchanges) up and running on time, but if there is a security incident they are done. It would be a complete disaster from a PR viewpoint.”

Last week, an Inspector General’s report revealed that while the government originally gave its contractor a May 13 deadline for a plan to test the system’s security. A test was scheduled for between June 3 and 7 but was postponed and testing is now scheduled to go up until the last possible moment.

McGraw said in a “worst case scenario” people will be able to apply for insurance on Oct. 1, but have no way of knowing if they have been accepted or not.

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About the author

Justin focuses on tech and internet news.