Pallone: House health-care hearing a ‘monkey court’

October 24, 2013
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) grew heated in criticizing his Republican colleagues during a House Energy and Commerce committee hearing on HealthCare.gov Thursday. (The Washington Post)

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) derided today's House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing as a “monkey court,” accusing Republicans of exhibiting false concern during testimony and chastising them for raising security concerns that he said were specious.

“You are trying to scare people so they won’t apply,” he said, adding that he believes the Republicans’ true purpose is to undermine people’s trust in the new health-care law so that it has to be delayed or repealed.

His outburst came after two Republicans alleged that the federal marketplace does not adequately protect people’s medical privacy.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) grilled Cheryl Campbell, vice president of CGI, the main contractor building the Web site, on a warning on the site that information visitors entered into the system would be subject to greater disclosure than the medical forms Americans typically fill out. That information is protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a privacy law.

“Are you aware this was in the source code? Do you think that’s HIPAA compliant?” Barton asked. “Admit it! You’re under oath.”

“Sir, that is CMS’s decision to make,” she replied, referring to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency within the HHS that is overseeing implementation of Obamacare.

“We’re telling every American if you sign up for this, or you even attempt to sign up, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy,” Barton said. “That is a direct contradiction of HIPAA, and you know it.”

“That is a CMS call,” Campbell said. “That is not a contractor call.”

At one point, Barton pressed Campbell to give her opinion on whether this is an acceptable part of the system as “an American,” which she declined to answer.

“We’ll, I’ll answer,” Barton said. “ I don’t think it should be.”

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