MARCH 25, 2014
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on March 18, 2014, it filed two new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to obtain government records about the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
One lawsuit seeks information about the December 19, 2013, decision by the Obama administration to establish new “hardship exemptions” that could allow most consumers to escape the Obamacare individual mandate without penalty (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (No.1:14-cv-00429)). The second suit seeks records about security and privacy concerns surrounding the Obamacare healthcare.gov web portal (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (No. 1:14-cv-00430)).
The “hardship exemptions” suit was filed after a December 20, 2013 Judicial Watch FOIA request to HHS was ignored contrary to law. The lawsuit seeks the following information:
Any and all records of communications including, but not limited to, electronic communications (e-mails), between any officer or employee of the Centers for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), and any other employee or officer of CMS, the Department of Health and Human Services, and/or the Executive Office of the President, regarding the December 19, 2013 policy guidance issued by the CCIIO. For purposed of clarification, this policy guidance establishes a hardship exemption for consumers whose health insurance policies have been cancelled and allows those consumers to purchase ‘catastrophic’ health insurance policies.
On December 19, 2013, the Obama administration announced it would grant controversial “hardship exemptions” to millions of Americans to allow them to avoid paying tax penalties for failing to comply with the Obamacare individual mandate. Most observers agree that the “hardship exemptions” may be the most significant unilateral change that the Obama administration has yet made in the controversial government program. The changes would grant broad exemptions to anyone who “believes” that Obamacare coverage options “are unaffordable,” essentially opening the door to exemptions for almost anyone who finds the law unpalatable. In the words of the Wall Street Journal, “these shifting legal benchmarks offer an exemption to everyone who conceivably wants one.”
The Judicial Watch healthcare.gov web portal security suit was filed after HHS also ignored a December 20, 2013, FOIA request asking for:
Any and all records related to, regarding or in connection with the security of the healthcare.gov web portal including, but no limited to, studies, memoranda, correspondence, electronic communications (e-mails), and slide presentations from January 1, 2012 to the present.
In November, 2013, web expert David Kennedy testified that the Obama administration had not only failed to secure the site from its inception and that adequate security protections were built into the system. “Based on our findings,” Kennedy told the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, “we are confident that the security around the application was not appropriately tested prior to release, that the safeguards to protect sensitive information are not in place, and that there are and will continue to be for a significant amount of time serious security concerns with the website unless direct action is taken to address these concerns.”
In additional testimony provided to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology in January, 2014, Kennedy said that the Obama administration had done very little to address the web portal security concerns. “Since the November meeting, there has been a half of one issue fixed … of the 18 issues identified through passive reconnaissance,” Kennedy told the committee. “Some issues still include critical or high-risk findings to personal information or risk of loss of confidentiality or integrity of the infrastructure itself.”
“This administration is in full stonewall mode on Obamacare,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This president thinks he can change, ignore, and rewrite Obamacare with zero accountability. And the illegal secrecy about the threats to the privacy of Americans who use the Obamacare website ought to make taxpayers very nervous about sharing personal data through healthcare.gov. ”
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