Like it or not, President Obama could soon be signing into law the eighth change to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, since the health care overhaul was enacted in 2010.
On their 48 th attempt to tinker with the president's signature law since seizing the majority in 2011, House Republicans produced a veto-proof majority by turning more defecting Democrats, 67, than any previous vote to tweak the bill.
H.R. 3811, the Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act, strives to strengthen security requirements in the health care law and require prompt notification in the event of a breach involving personal information. The bill passed with a veto-proof majority, 291-122. No Republicans opposed.
"Americans have the right to know if the president's health care law has put their personal information at risk, and today's bipartisan vote reflects that concern," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, wrote in a statement after the vote. "It shouldn't take an act of Congress for the White House to provide that information, but the lack of transparency surrounding the security of the Obamacare website has proven that's the case."
Proponents of the changes contend that the Healthcare.gov website was launched against the expressed concerns of the CMS's chief information security officer, citing "unknown risks" including the breach of sensitive financial and health information of users.
CMS is the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is responsible for administration of several federal health care programs.
"While there has been no malicious breach, data has been improperly handled and accidentally disclosed," Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Joe Pitts, the author of the bill, wrote in a statement. "With the messy rollout of Healthcare.gov, there is great risk that the website could be hacked. Identity theft is devastating to individuals and families. In the event of theft, we have to make sure that people are protected."
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Although Democrats often complain that Republicans are wasting time repeatedly proposing changes to the law, the GOP often points out that seven other provisions have been successfully repealed and signed into law, including free-choice vouchers and a tax reporting requirement for small businesses. The Obama administration also pulled the plug on the CLASS Act program for long-term care.
The administration did not threaten to veto the bill but issued a policy statement Thursday opposing "burdensome" changes to requirements, contending it already has implemented "an effective and efficient system for securing personally-identifiable information in the Health Insurance Marketplaces and providing consumers notification if their personally-identifiable information has been compromised."
"When consumers fill out their online Marketplace applications, they can trust that the information that they are providing is protected by stringent security standards," the White House stated. "The components of the HealthCare.gov website that are now operational comply with Federal security standards."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dismissed concern before the vote that the website's functionality issues are eroding her base's support for the law.
"I'm not particularly concerned about who votes yes or no on that. It's a sort of an egregious kind of thing," Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday at a news conference. "It has nothing to do with any [Democratic] weakening of support. If anything, it gives us an opportunity to say, once again, 'They're coming after you - Affordable Care Act - millions of people - they'd like to reverse that.'"
The measure now heads to the Democrat-controlled Senate, although it's unclear whether Majority Leader Harry Reid has a desire to move the bill forward despite the overwhelming vote in the House.