Ballad of a Thin Insurance Commissioner

You walk into the room
With your pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked
And you say, “Who is that man?”

You try so hard
But you don’t understand
Just what you’ll say
When you get home

— Bob Dylan, “Ballad of a Thin Man”

One of the best parts about Obamacare is that it’s going to require people to put a lot of personal information out there in order to get insurance. Yep, you’ll be standing naked in front of someone with the equivalent of a pencil in his hand. Of course, that means the person with the pencil will need to be above reproach. Will they be?

As California prepares to launch its health care exchange, consumer groups are worried the uninsured could fall victim to fraud, identity theft or other crimes at the hands of some of the very people who are supposed to help them enroll.

The exchange, known as Covered California, recently adopted rules for a network of more than 21,000 enrollment counselors who will provide consumers with in-person assistance as part of the federal Affordable Care Act. In some cases, they will have access to personal and financial information, from ID cards to medical histories.

But the state insurance commissioner and anti-fraud groups say the exchange is falling short in ensuring that the people hired as counselors are adequately screened and monitored.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones also said the exchange does not have a plan for investigating any complaints that might arise once the counselors start work. That means consumers who might fall prey to bogus health care products, identity theft and other abuses will have a hard time seeking justice if unscrupulous counselors get hold of their Social Security number, bank accounts, health records or other private information, he said.

“We can have a real disaster on our hands,” Jones, a Democrat, said in an interview.

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

Cross-posted and comments welcome at Mr. Dilettante’s Neighborhood.