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What brokers are doing in wake of Anthem hack

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The recently revealed data security breach at Anthem was the largest known health care data breach to date, affecting as many as 80 million current and former policyholders. But the cyber attack on Anthem also has had an impact on brokers, who have moved quickly to address questions from the individual policyholders and business groups they work with.

According to Susan Rider, national media chair for the National Association of Health Underwriters, brokers and employers groups have been working together to answer questions from policyholders since the data breach was found.

“Clients are trying to be proactive,” she said. “They’re trying to be open with the communication they provide.”

Anthem’s response

Anthem itself moved quickly to provide consumer information, setting up a web page that addressed the data breach and providing a set of Frequently Asked Questions for consumers.

Anthem also put out a statement last week outlining the details of the attack and the steps it was taking in response.

“As soon as we learned about the attack, we immediately made every effort to close the security vulnerability, contacted the FBI and began fully cooperating with their investigation. Anthem has also retained Mandiant, one of the world’s leading cybersecurity firms, to evaluate our systems and identify solutions based on the evolving landscape,” the company said in a statement.

“We will individually notify current and former members whose information has been accessed. Credit monitoring and identity protection services will be provided free of charge so that those who have been affected can have peace of mind.”

Brokers work to inform clients

Rider says that after the breach was announced, the brokerage she works with, Indianapolis-based Gregory and Appel Insurance, created emails with information for enrollees that was then shared with employer groups. The firm also created an email with information for clients who had worked with Anthem in the past, who might also be affected by the breach.

In addition, Rider says, Anthem and brokers have had to warn customers about “phishing” campaigns by scammers who will seek to gain even more customer information, claiming to be representatives of Anthem.

The Anthem data breach, like the cyber attack on Target last year that revealed credit card information, has exposed personal information that can be used in a variety of ways.

In this case, the hackers gained access to names, social security numbers, date of birth, addresses, phone numbers, medical IDs, and more from the company’s customers. According to one report, personal and business information of brokers themselves was not compromised in the attack.

Cyber security experts say the impact of the data breach could be felt for years, and will certainly be costly for the Indianapolis-based insurer, which is the largest for-profit arm in the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. The Target data breach, which affected at least 40 million credit card holders, cost that company $148 million, by some estimates.

Protecting information

According to Rider, there are a number of steps brokers and companies can take to protect health information. She says that some employers that work with her brokerage firm have already been offering their employees identify theft protection as an additional benefit.

For brokers, she says, it’s more important than ever to focus on data security.

“Brokers are going to have to make sure that their agencies have a form of secure email, that their databases have security,” she says. “If it can happen to a large company, it can happen to a small company, too. We all have to invest and protect our clients’ data the best we can.”

She adds that it’s important that employers, brokers and carriers alike ensure that the technology portals they use for administering their benefit offerings is secure against identity theft.

“Even securing cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc., with passwords is important,” she says.