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Melendez Continues Inquiry Into State's Release Of Private Consumer Data

Among her top priorities in 2014, Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez of the 67th District says she is sorting out whether laws were broken when Covered California released private information about consumers to insurance agents.

Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, at her district office in Murrieta, Jan. 10, 2014. Photo/Toni McAllister
Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, at her district office in Murrieta, Jan. 10, 2014. Photo/Toni McAllister

After one year in state office, California Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez says she is looking forward to lawmaking in 2014 on behalf of her constituents in Lake Elsinore, Wildomar, Murrieta, Canyon Lake, Menifee, and other local jurisdictions.

Among her top things to do in the year ahead, she said, is investigating whether Covered California violated any laws when it released consumer information to insurance agents.

News of the data release broke late last year. The Los Angeles Times reported Dec. 6 that Covered California gave insurance agents the names, addresses, e-mail addresses and phone numbers of thousands of consumers who may have preferred their information remain private.

In the Times story, Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, reportedly said the action by the state exchange complied with privacy laws and was reviewed by legal counsel.

On Dec. 9, Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) issued a news release claiming she would seek a temporary restraining order to stop Covered California from releasing any further information.

Speaking by phone Friday, Covered California information officer Sarah Sol said to her knowledge no restraining order was received.

Covered California stems from the 2010 federal law called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – otherwise known as Obamacare – which calls for healthcare coverage for all Americans. The state exchange allows consumers to go online and shop for healthcare insurance.

Covered California and Obamacare have been a partisan issue, but Melendez said that argument is water under the bridge.

“This is not a partisan issue,” she said of the release of private information, saying both sides of the aisle in Sacramento are concerned about the matter. Melendez said Obamacare is here and “we have to live with it,” but she bristled at the release of personal data by the state.

Speaking from district office in Murrieta, Melendez explained Friday she has asked the state to look into the matter further, and if laws were broken she wants to see a “swift” remedy. The Assemblywoman said she would work with fellow lawmakers to bring legislation forward on the issue, depending on how the legal experts weigh in.

“We are in favor of keeping consumer information private,” Sol said Friday in response. She maintained that the release of information occurred in early December. Consumers who went online to the Covered California website -- but never completed the sign-up process -- had their information captured, Sol said. 

From there, the consumers were contacted by Covered California’s “certified partners,” Sol continued, noting that partners are required to undergo testing, fingerprinting and criminal background checks. The purpose of the contact by the partners was to make sure consumers who started the sign-up but never finished “didn’t fall through the cracks,” she said.

“No medical information or social security numbers were handed out,” Sol added, and she noted that to her knowledge there has been no litigation filed over the matter.

As Melendez continues her inquiry into Covered California, she is also eyeing other top priorities in the coming year, including bringing back a bill that died in committee during 2013. Melendez’s AB 939 was introduced last spring and it “encouraged” public schools to have and maintain Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) on their campuses. AEDs are used to resuscitate patients who go into cardiac arrest. Melendez, a 45-year-old mother of five, said she’s bewildered by the lack of support for the bill, and feels if the legislation were passed the law could save young lives.

“As a parent, I don’t understand why one wouldn’t want this.”

According to Melendez, the bill would not mandate that schools purchase the AEDs but rather education officials should be willing to accept the devices if donated.

“There are companies willing to donate,” she said.

Pushback on AB 939 has come from the California Federation of Teachers. Writing in opposition to the legislation, the CFT stated it was "particularly concerned that educators are being asked to provide health treatment that is far beyond their scope of education, training and general job responsibilities.”

Melendez said she will work with teachers and make changes to the bill in an effort to pass the legislation during 2014.

“I am very tenacious,” she added.

Other top priorities for the Assemblywoman include working to bring back Vehicle License Fee revenues to Wildomar, Menifee, Eastvale, and Jurupa Valley. In June 2011, Gov. Jerry Brown signed off on a budget package that included SB 89, a bill that cut the VLF revenue stream from local cities and directed it to the state. The hit was particularly tough on the four new Riverside County cities, especially Jurupa Valley, which will likely file paperwork this month to start its disincorporation process.

Wildomar has not counted on seeing its nearly $1.8 million in VLF revenues returned, but city officials have not given up hope that a Senate bill – SB 69, which would return the revenues – might pass.

Melendez also wants to sit down with Gov. Jerry Brown this year to see what adjustments can be brokered to ease the stresses of realignment. In 2011 California lawmakers passed AB 109 – otherwise known as realignment -- by a partisan vote, with Democrats voting for and Republicans against. The legislation was designed to address a federal court mandate that California reduce its state prison overcrowding. AB 109 helped relieve the prison overload by "realigning" inmates from those state institutions into local county jails. To help counties absorb the housing costs, an allotment of state dollars gets handed out.

Melendez is concerned that Riverside County is getting short-changed on the deal.

“The funding formula could use some tweaks,” she said.

Melendez also praised Brown on his 2014-15 draft budget that was released Thursday, saying she was happy to see no new taxes and a commitment to pay down debt. She also applauded the governor’s pledge to spend more on education, although she added a pinch of criticism.

“I would like to see a little more local control,” she said of the education spending. “Nothing bad can come from that.”

Melendez said she has a host of other concerns for 2014 brought forward by constituents, but said she has yet to fully analyze the issues surrounding them.

She encouraged constituents to continue contacting her.

“You have good ideas, so bring them to me.”

 

Antonio January 13, 2014 at 03:50 PM
I get it. ChrisG is a spin-doctor in-training. This is classic, "garner a large portion of the under-educated, classist constituency that normally votes democrat." The facts are that a large percentage of the Republican constituency is made up of white males, between 18-25, with a H.S. diploma or less. Basically, young, uneducated.
ChrisG January 13, 2014 at 06:06 PM
@lyn, I'm not spinning. I am trying to open a dialog with you. You think the Dems are the cure all. I do not feel the same about the republicans. I've asked you some questions but you won't answer them for some reason. Why is that?
Antonio January 13, 2014 at 09:36 PM
One of the issues that Republicans/Tea Party people constantly complain about, in addition to taxes on the wealthy, is government regulation. You ask what is that about, well look no further than the massive 7,500 gallon spill of chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol in West Virginia a few days ago. Polluting the water to 300,000 humans. Seems the company didn't violate any government health and safety laws, because the company Freedom Enterprises, per W. Virginia laws isn't required to undergo any inspections by government inspectors. Hasn't been inspected since 1991. When Republicans speak of getting rid of unnecessary government regulations, this is what they mean. I guess Freedom Enterprises is free to pollute the W. Virginia water and environment.
ChrisG January 13, 2014 at 09:56 PM
@lyn, tragic accident indeed. But the company is held accountable. They are leading the efforts to clean up the polluted water supply. The government is holding them accountable. Why do you say they are free to pollute? They are not. You harm your political point of view when you make those kinds of absurd statements. Now, how about answering my questions? Still not willing to engage?
Antonio January 13, 2014 at 10:06 PM
This is an environmental disaster that should never happen if W. Virginia had the environmental regulations that California has. Republicans want to remove government regulations that protect us stock investors, consumers, water drinkers, air breathers, etc. Republicans represent the segment of business that foolishly puts profits ahead of reasonable regulations. Am I engaged now?
AlwaysPO'd January 13, 2014 at 10:37 PM
"Republicans want to remove government regulations that protect us stock investors, consumers, water drinkers, air breathers, etc." - Lyn ___________________________________________________ Where do you looney left folks get this from? This is the same tired blather that the left continues to spew, day after day. They don't hate women or clean air or water. That's ridiculous. Stop it. And where does it say that the right hates ALL regulation? Where is this written? Snap out of it. You folks are so pathetic.
ChrisG January 13, 2014 at 10:46 PM
@lyn, yes, tragic accident. Not the fault of a lack of regulation. Could happen here too. It will be cleaned up. The pollution is not permanent. Please don't get upset. We all want a clean environment. This contamination was not purposeful. The folks that have those jobs, their families drink that water. There isn't a conspiracy with every disaster. And no you're not engaging me. You're deflecting. Why won't you answer my questions?
Antonio January 13, 2014 at 11:09 PM
Not accident, never said it was purposeful (stop trying to spin, it doesn't work with me), it was gross negligence allowed to happen by lack of reasonable regulation. I am upset about dangerous criminal polluters that could have been easily prevented. Never said it was a conspiracy (more of your spin) And it didn't appear that Freedom Enterprises cared about a clean environment. Sure glad we have Democrat State leaders who protect our environment instead of Republican who shill for the polluters. I know I must be engaging you by now.
Antonio January 13, 2014 at 11:13 PM
APO, pick a Republican, any Republican (Melendez, Jeffries, Bush, Chaney, Tom Delay, Chris Christie, McConnell, etc. They all want to cut taxes for the wealthy and get rid of government regulations. If they didn't support these two ideas the Tea Party loonies would turn their guns on them.
ChrisG January 13, 2014 at 11:39 PM
@lyn, why won't you answer my questions? This was an accident, not purposeful. Companies are for profit. This type of accident costs lots of revenue. More than not following safety procedures. Accidents happen. It's a risk with all dangerous jobs. At least in W VA they have jobs. Most have fled CA because of the policies of your party. Now, please answer my questions.
AlwaysPO'd January 14, 2014 at 12:05 AM
Lyn, which one of these folks wants to eliminate regulations?
AlwaysPO'd January 14, 2014 at 12:13 AM
ChrisG, she can't answer them. She, and rest of her ilk, only know what they're told to say. They have absolutely no common sense and self-thought. Just more parroting from those who know so much about nothing.
LAKE ELSINORE RESIDENT January 14, 2014 at 08:17 AM
Malicious Mel is all for getting rid of CEQA and any responsible republican would then be all for getting rid of Malicious Mel. Question to Sef is Malicious Mel all for big money getting what it wants and doesn't care what the people want as long as she gets what she wants?
SA January 14, 2014 at 11:42 AM
What I find funny is Lynn’s daily life is made easier by Republicans and made harder by Democrats … However Lynn cannot explain WHY because it makes sense…
AlwaysPO'd January 14, 2014 at 09:16 PM
Lyn, which one of these folks (Melendez, Jeffries, Bush, Chaney, Tom Delay, Chris Christie, McConnell, etc.), wants to eliminate regulations? Still waiting !! You are so misinformed, it's really pathetic.
Antonio January 14, 2014 at 09:32 PM
All of them. Don't you read the newspapers?
LAKE ELSINORE RESIDENT January 15, 2014 at 08:18 AM
Lyn I don't think they can read and that's the problem I do know they don't use their brains. ROTFLMAO
ChrisG January 15, 2014 at 09:55 AM
@ler, yes, that's right, you libs are smart and the rest of us are dumb, ignorant fools. Nice! Here's one main difference between democrats and republicans. Forget the media is a shill for the Dems. You will blindly follow any politician with a D while the other side will not. Take Benghazi for example, Obama knew it was a terrorist attack from day one yet sent his people out to purposely lie to the world about the cause of the attack. Take the lies he told to get his beloved social health care program passed. There are countless examples. You follow, you make excuses, you look the other way. Now think what would happen if Bush did that. Or any pol with an R after their name. His supporters would denounce him. That is one main difference. You like to call names and deflect instead of working together to fix problems. Both sides have good ideas but neither side is good at governing alone. If you can't see that you are lost causes. Remember HWB, " read my lips, no new taxes?" His supporters left in masses and was not reelected. That would not have been the case if he was a D instead of an R.
Antonio January 15, 2014 at 11:11 AM
ChrisG, there is news today regarding the Benghazi incident. I haven't read it yet, but it doesn't sound good for the Obama administration. Why don't you do us a service and read it and summarize it for us readers here at the Patch? Thanks.
LAKE ELSINORE RESIDENT January 15, 2014 at 03:12 PM
By the way I am a proud Republican and a member of the Grande Old Party all my adult life. Some of us use our brains and read before we vote, unlike the Moron sheep and idiots who constantly abuse Lyn.
ChrisG January 15, 2014 at 05:59 PM
@lyn, let me know when you've read it and whether you think Obama should get a pass for his handling of the attack on our consulate and the murders of our Ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi.
LAKE ELSINORE RESIDENT January 15, 2014 at 08:02 PM
Hillary Clinton should be prosecuted for the murders in Benghazi
Roberto January 15, 2014 at 08:36 PM
Don't bad mouth Hillary, Lynn will surly call you sexist and if you say anything about Obama, your a racist.
LAKE ELSINORE RESIDENT January 15, 2014 at 08:49 PM
Hillary is as bad as Malicious in my opinion. I can't believe she and Slick got away with White Water. One day someone will be tried for the RDA caper if we ever get a DA in Riverside County who cares about justice. Then again we always have the AG Harris who can take care of things when DA's don't do their jobs.
Antonio January 15, 2014 at 09:35 PM
Watching PBS interview of Washington Post reporter on the latest report on Benghazi. The major finding was the attack could have been prevented. The report is extremely detailed. It did find terrorists were involved in the attack which involved using diesel fuel to burn the buildings. Seems State Dept. security dropped the ball. I asked ChrisG if he wanted the opportunity to report objectively on one of his favorite issues, but he wouldn't or couldn't do that (probably a little of both). Thanks LER for your concern about me, but its misplaced. The boys and girls on this website are just out of their league with me.
ChrisG January 15, 2014 at 10:16 PM
@lyn, you're minor league. The point of the updated news on Benghazi was that Obama's secretary of defense and joint chief of staff both told him it was a terrorist attack yet his administration sent Rice and others out claiming it was an uprising in response to a right wing nut jobs YouTube video. Obama knew it was lies but went along with it for political reasons. If you don't see that you're hopeless. You still back this liar because he has a D?
AlwaysPO'd January 15, 2014 at 10:16 PM
"The boys and girls on this website are just out of their league with me." - Lyn ___________________________________________________ For someone as good as you are, why can't you answer any simple questions presented to you? Such as my question remember this.. _________________________________________________ "Lyn, which one of these folks wants to eliminate regulations?" _________________________________________________ Well genius, which one? Exactly? Face it, you're a hack and a parrot.
LAKE ELSINORE RESIDENT January 15, 2014 at 10:18 PM
That's right Lyn the boys and girls are out of their league with not only you but many more of us. We refer to most of them as the infected moron sheep of Weirdomar with many AKA's.
Antonio January 15, 2014 at 10:50 PM
The tone is getting pretty shrill in here. But the closed minds remain closed.
ChrisG January 15, 2014 at 11:06 PM
@lyn, you're hilarious. Yours is the closed mind. You refuse to answer questions. You're afraid to engage. Run and hide like you always do.

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