US House to target HealthCare.gov in two votes this week

One bill would require HHS to notify consumers if their personal data is exposed on the site

The U.S. House of Representatives is moving toward votes on two bills intended to put a spotlight on the inner workings of HealthCare.gov, the health insurance shopping site recovering from a rocky rollout in late 2013.

The two bills, the Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act and Exchange Information Disclosure Act, are scheduled for votes on the House floor in the coming days. Late Wednesday, the House Rules Committee will meet to determine what debate rules will be allowed on the House floor for both bills.

The Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act, just announced this week by Representative Joe Pitts, a Pennsylvania Republican, would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to notify victims of data breaches at HealthCare.gov and related state-run health insurance shopping sites within two business days.

Republican critics of HealthCare.gov and the underlying Affordable Care Act have questioned the security at the website, but HHS officials said in mid-December they had seen no significant security problems.

President Barack Obama's "record of broken promises has given the American people every reason to doubt the security and readiness of the health care law," Pitts said in a statement. "The administration knowingly launched a website before final security testing was completed after repeatedly testifying that everything was 'on track,' which we now know was not the case."

A spokesman for the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency running HealthCare.gov, didn't immediately return a message seeking comment on the legislation.

The second bill, the Exchange Information Disclosure Act, was introduced in late October by Representative Lee Terry, a Nebraska Republican. It would require HHS to provide a weekly report on the status of HealthCare.gov.

CMS officials were giving near-daily press briefings about HealthCare.gov in November and December, but have released monthly insurance enrollment numbers through the site.

The bill would require the weekly reports to include key metrics about HealthCare.gov, including unique website visits, accounts created, qualified health plan selection and Medicaid enrollment. Supporters of the bill say it would help Congress and the public track the Affordable Care Act's progress.

Republicans have said CMS has not released enough information about how many people have successfully enrolled in health coverage through the site.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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Tags governmentinternetBarack Obamaindustry verticalshealth careGovernment use of ITU.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesLee TerryU.S. House of RepresentativesJoe Pitts

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Grant Gross

IDG News Service
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