published Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Tennessee health care computers rated 'high risk'

Teresa Fryer, Medicare's top cybersecurity official, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Teresa Fryer, Medicare's top cybersecurity official, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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NASHVILLE — Tennessee was among the more than two-thirds of states rated as "high risk" for security problems related to its computers tapping into the federal health insurance exchange system.

Federal cybersecurity experts worried in advance of the Oct. 1 deadline for new insurance exchanges that state computer systems could become a backdoor for hackers and identity thieves. But the Obama administration says the issues have been resolved or addressed, and no successful cyberattacks have occurred.

The federal data hub is used to check Social Security, Internal Revenue Service and Homeland Security records to verify key personal information for determining coverage eligibility under the Affordable Care Act.

"Tennessee is taking all necessary safeguards to protect applicant and enrollee data," Kelly Gunderson, a spokeswoman for TennCare, said in an email.

Gunderson said that "while there may have been a possible concern" raised in November about needing an outside security assessment, the state was ultimately granted access to the federal system.

Still, Tennessee is the only state of the 46 with authority to connect to the federal hub that is operating under a 60-day access agreement. The others operate under three-year arrangements.

The state is expected to transition to a three-year agreement once a new eligibility and enrollment system goes live, according to Jim Esquea, an assistant secretary at HHS.

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