On Monday, the New York State of Health insurance marketplace unwittingly revealed the email addresses of roughly 100 insurance shoppers in a message reminding them that open enrollment ends on March 31, according to a copy of the email forwarded to PandoDaily.
Marci Natale, the deputy director of the New York Department of Health’s public affairs group, confirmed the leak in a statement to PandoDaily, saying:
A reminder e-mail to a small group of individuals from NY State of Health regarding the up-coming March 31st enrollment deadline for selecting a health insurance plan inadvertently included the e-mail addresses of the addressees. Other than the email addresses, no identifying information was included in the email. We have investigated the cause of this error and have taken steps to prevent it from occurring again.
The email address from which the offending message was sent includes a domain name that belongs to an independent insurance agent based in New Jersey who, when reached for comment, said that the email was not sent by her and that she is not involved with the New York insurance marketplace. Asked why an email sent from the New York State of Health organization would include that domain name, Natale confirmed that “the emails are from the New York State of Health” and declined to comment further.
The New York State of Health marketplace is funded with $368 million in federal grant money, according to its website, which says that it is also “participating in a grant program run by the non-profit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that provides technical assistance to our state.” As of publication time, it has not acknowledged the mistake on its website.
It does note in a press release issued on March 10, however, that “almost” 600,000 New Yorkers have purchased insurance through its storefront. Its website claims that almost a million applications have been completed.
Here’s an image of the email with the addresses blurred (full text below)…
Reminder: Open Enrollment Ends March 31st
You completed your application for health insurance. Now it’s time to select your health plan.
Act now. Under federal law, you only have until until March 31st to select your health plan for 2014.
If you do not select your health plan by March 31st, you may be required to pay a federal tax penalty in 2014. Under federal law you will not be able to enroll in coverage until 2015 unless you meet very limited requirements such as getting married or divorced, gaining a dependent or losing your current health insurance coverage.
Don’t miss out. Join the over 1/2 million New Yorkers who have already enrolled through NY State of Health.
To enroll in a plan, please log back in to your account at www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov and click on the “Plans” tab. From this page, you can see what plans are available and select the health plan that works best for you. You can also call us at 1-855-355-5777, or visit our website to find a NY State of Health navigator or insurance broker in your area.
This is not the first email-related privacy breach to emerge from New York this month. The full names, addresses, and social security numbers of some 300 retired police officers in Syracuse, New York were compromised last week when a member of the City Hall’s personnel department sent “an attachment” containing all of that information to another retired officer.