Say you had a look around Amazon on Cyber Monday–checked out a couple of juicers (new year’s resolutions, you know), considered grabbing a spare flash drive, even had a quick “look inside” Fifty Shades of Gray. But you didn’t checkout with anything–just browsing right. You’d probably be surprised to get a call a little later from Jeff Bezos, asking if he couldn’t be of further assistance and telling you, BTW, that there’s a Fifty Shades movie in the works. That’s about what happened recently at Covered California, the healthcare exchange set up for Californians to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act. The exchange, which has been among the most successful and busy in the nation, started giving away personal information to private contractors last week.
The State of California gave agents with four big insurance companies the names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of people who came to the Covered California site but didn’t purchase a plan. So the agents were free to call them and try to get them set up, even though the people hadn’t asked to be contacted. According to the LA Times, the exchange gave away the information of “tens of thousands of people.” The idea behind sharing the info is that insurance agents who follow up will be able to help customers who couldn’t navigate the site properly, working on the assumption that all those who came and saw but didn’t conquer Covered California surely wanted to. Or maybe, like the discreet samplers of Fifty Shades, they just wanted to see what all the fuss was about–and then get back to business as usual.