North Country News
6:30 pm
Wed November 27, 2013

Health Official Apology Over Security Breach Breeds Controversy

Criticism has been raging this week over the accuracy of testimony the Commissioner of Vermont Health Access provided to a Vermont House committee regarding the security of the state health care exchange.

On Sunday, Vermont Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson sent a letter of apology to the chair of the House Health Care Committee to express his regret and apologize for not providing timely and accurate information last month when asked whether there had been security failures in the state’s health care exchange. VTdigger.org, an independent online investigative newspaper, posted Larson’s original testimony to the House committee.

The Associated Press obtained information under Vermont’s public records law that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid had been advised of a security breach three weeks before Commissioner Larson appeared before the committee.  The fault occurred when a Vermonter accessed the account of another Vermonter with the same name. There has been a flood of condemnation that Larson did not note the problem during his testimony.
Larson’s apology was directed to Committee Chair Democrat Mike Fisher, who notes an irony in that the breach was a very limited one-time occurrence.

Larson is a former state legislator and many of his critics were once close colleagues in the legislative chambers. But House Minority Leader Republican Don Turner is extremely disappointed and hopes Larson faces “serious consequences”.

Turner is also unsatisfied with the apology that Larson sent to the committee chair, saying he should have sent one to fellow Republican Representative Mary Morrissey, who posed the question that was inaccurately answered.

Vermont Campaign for Health Care Security Executive Director Peter Sterling is concerned that all the finger pointing will erode the public’s confidence in the health care exchange.

In a statement released following Larson’s apology, Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin said he was “...disappointed to learn that Commissioner Larson did not adequately disclose the circumstances of it....”. Fellow Democrat House Speaker Shap Smith’s statement bluntly notes that the “...incident is unacceptable.”

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