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On the Third Hand: Regtap secrets

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I was going to write a blog entry about an entirely different topic, then clicked one link, then another, then another, and somehow ended up in the innards of Regtap, a strange website set up by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

The documents on the server are on the World Wide Web. Anyone can post a clickable link to any of the documents. You could click on a link and see the document, without putting in a password.

Any hacker who knows how to find, or create, a search engine that ignores non-search-engines tags can search the site.

But managers protect the front door with an ordinary, automated registration process, and they use no-robot tags to keep classy search engines out.

So, in other words: You might have a hard time looking at the documents on Regtap, if you were too lazy to set up an account. Ordinary hackers might ignore the site, just because they might not be aware of it. Any hackers who really want to spend their days reading about Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) agent policies and procedures can read webinar slidedecks to their hearts’ content.

But, on one such slidedeck, CMS officials have included a slide that states the following: “Please be advised that the intended audience for this call is medical and dental issuers operating within the [federal exchange system]-SHOP. This is not an open press call. Members of the press or a media outlet should disconnect the call at this time and contact the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Press Office for further information.”

In other words: CMS, an agency that has given the people who are paying for PPACA implementation, aka the taxpayers, including reporters who pay taxes, virtually no public information on the progress of PPACA implementation, is trying to chase the two or three reporters obsessive enough to find the slidedeck away from covering it, and such top-secret scoops as the revelation that SHOP agents are “encouraged to complete the FF-SHOP agent/broker training.”

See also: What if you lie to a PPACA exchange?

In other words, CMS won’t even tell us, roughly, how many enrollees exchange SHOP plans have, and it’s trying to hide the few extra scraps of information it gives to insiders. Such as the fact that the agent/broker information passed to issuers will include a producer’s telephone number, an alternative telephone number, a mailing address, and a preferred method of contact.

Because, of course, on the one hand, heaven forbid that taxpayers should know that SHOP exchange plan issuers collect basic directory information about insurance brokers. Letting that information get out might cause the computers of the United States to melt down and spit protected health information onto the sidewalk.

On the other hand, it seems as if CMS and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) take that same North Korean-style approach to just about all information about PPACA implementation.

But, on the third hand, to be fair to North Korea: If North Korea were in charge of PPACA implementation, maybe it would at least post fudged but complete, up-to-date PPACA implementation and performance data on the Web. Or, if it were trying to keep PPACA information secret, put the secret documents behind a log-in wall, not just depend on a no-robot-tags and nasty messages to keep the public out.