Obamacare's Biggest Flaw Is Scary. But It Could Also Make You Rich!

Despite having more than three and a half months under its belt, Obamacare's state and federally run health exchanges have been wrought with glitches.

For some state-run exchanges it's been nothing more than server-related overflow issues, but for many, such as the federally run Healthcare.gov, or state-run exchanges like Hawaii, it's been due to poorly executed IT source code that made their websites practically unusable for weeks or months. Although the majority of errors on Healthcare.gov have been fixed, the stigma of those two glitch-filled months remains in the forefront.

Other opponents of the health-care reform law would point to its fluid deadlines as perhaps its greatest flaw. Since the summer we've witnessed the delay of the employer mandate -- the actionable component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requires employers of 50 of more full-time employees to offer them health insurance and to subsidize that employees' health coverage if it crosses a certain percentage of income or face a penalty -- as well as a twice-delayed December coverage cutoff date in order to have insurance by Jan. 1. In other words, these opponents would claim that the structure of the law itself, and an inability of the U.S. government to stick to set deadline, is Obamacare's greatest flaw.

Source: Adam Thomas, Flickr.

This could be Obamacare's biggest flaw
Yet for all of Obamacare's delays and technical glitches, there is potentially a bigger flaw that I believe could dwarf both of these concerns. That gigantic flaw is none other than cybersecurity concerns surrounding Obamacare.

We often hear about the safety concerns of using a debit card and having a thief or hacker steal our credit card information or PIN, but we're talking about a completely different can of worms with Healthcare.gov. A potential security breach into Healthcare.gov could give hackers access to names, email address, physical addresses, Social Security numbers -- basically the whole enchilada.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the day-to-day operations of Healthcare.gov, notes that no such attacks have been noted by the agency since it went live on Oct. 1, but a recent report by Reuters this past week would suggest that the site is far from safe.

According to David Kennedy, CEO of computer security consulting business TrustedSec, there are more than 20 security vulnerabilities that have been uncovered in Healthcare.gov since it went live on Oct. 1 that have yet to be dealt with. Not only can hackers steal individual information according to these potential flaws, but they could upload malware that could infect users utilizing Healthcare.gov's website, creating a problems that could quickly cascade.

Source: Don Hankins, Flickr.

Can Obamacare's biggest flaw make you rich?
While the potential for a cybersecurity breach is a very real threat, the possibility that you as an investor could profit from the millions, perhaps billions, of dollars being thrown at protecting your vital information is also quite tangible.

One plain-as-day move that the Obama administration recently made was to dump the primary architect behind Healthcare.gov, CGI Group, and replace it with IT-consulting juggernaut Accenture (NYSE: ACN  ) when CGI's contract expires at the end of February. CGI's tenure as lead contractor has been miserable, with Healthcare.gov practically unusable during the majority of its first two months, Vermont's health exchange still struggling to get off the ground, and Hawaii's Connector bringing up the caboose in national enrollments. Accenture, on the other hand, steps into a role where baseline expectations are already low (thanks to CGI's multiple fumbles), giving it the time to potentially focus its efforts on improving security measures with Healthcare.gov.

Beyond Accenture, it's a bit tougher to see who might benefit directly, but a few names nonetheless stand out.

Take Science Applications International (NYSE: SAIC  ) , perhaps better known by its shorthand, SAIC. SAIC is the cybersecurity brainchild behind a number of government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security as well as various CMS programs. Because of the pressing need for cybersecurity -- because, let's face it, cybersecurity is no longer optional given how advanced hackers have become these days -- companies like SAIC can still land new government contracts even while government spending shrinks. There are few segments of government spending that are practically limitless, but SAIC is sitting in one of those sweet spots.

Along those same lines is Booz Allen Hamilton (NYSE: BAH  ) , which acts as a technology and cybersecurity consulting company to businesses and the U.S. government. Like SAIC, Booz Allen Hamilton is intricately involved in consulting the U.S. government and its military branches on how best to secure its IT infrastructure. As a known consultant to Healthcare.gov already, it would only make sense that the U.S. government could continue to funnel more money and contracts Booz Allen Hamilton's way to ensure the security of millions of Americans' personal information.

Two more dark-horse candidates that could see a dramatic boost in their cybersecurity business are Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN  ) and Palo Alto Networks (NYSE: PANW  ) .

Amazon.com's EC2 virtual data centers are a lot cheaper to operate and provide more storage space than most cloud-computing companies, making Amazon a potentially smart choice for Obamacare's massive data needs moving forward. Furthermore, Amazon's Web services already come with cybersecurity measures, and I certainly don't recall seeing any massive cyber-attacks successfully perpetrated against Amazon since 2008, long before the cloud was what it is today.

I believe Palo Alto Networks holds a unique advantage over stodgier security companies in that its security applications are based in the cloud and geared more toward a social media-type setting. Put plainly, Palo Alto's firewalls allow for the company to handle nearly all source-code updates from the business end, requiring little effort from the end user, yet it can still protect users against older IT-architecture cyber concerns.

It remains to be seen what, if anything, CMS plans to do about protecting the integrity of Healthcare.gov from hackers, but I would certainly recommend keeping an eye on these five companies as possible beneficiaries.

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 20, 2014, at 8:02 AM, tom1948 wrote:

    I would agree that cyber security is probably one of the biggest business growth areas especially due to the recent Target and other retailers problems, but to single out the ACA is in my opinion out of line.

    It seems like almost everyone already knows everything about me. If I change my cell phone plan, the retailer uses my last 4 SSN digits to access my account. I can get my boarding pass at a kiosk by using any credit card, not necessarily the one I used to purchase the ticket. My Medicare number is my SSN with an A suffix. My financial institutions, brokerage, insurance companies( in fact, my auto insurance used a variation of my SSN for the policy number until about 10 years ago), credit card companies all have my SSN and since I pay most bills online, all of the rest of the whole enchilada. Many older public records; e.g., property deeds, contained the SSN. I am certainly worried about cyber security. ACA is just another of the hundreds of computer systems that have the whole "enchilada " of my personal information. In fact, there are at least five other federal government entities that already have the whole enchilada of my information. All systems, government and private, are vulnerable.

    Again, cyber security is a great area for an investor to consider in that we are all vulnerable to identify theft from hundreds of sources.

  • Report this Comment On January 20, 2014, at 12:48 PM, michaelmar wrote:

    "The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, ... notes that no such attacks have been noted by the agency since it went live on Oct. 1".

    According to an interview with Mr Kennedy over the weekend, they do not have the software in place (along with most of the rest of the back-end programming, like paying the ins. companies) that would allow them to detect such attacks. So that THEY did not note any is moot. It is like asking a blind man if the doors and windows are locked or unlocked, or if anyone came in while he was sleeping.

    Mr Kennedy offered to prove the site is insecure by actually hacking in under govt observation for free, but of course CMS has no interest in proving or dis-proving that and will never give him permission. They would rather wait until a real breach occurs by someone with much less honest intentions. And since you cannot sue the govt (unlike Target) there is no liability for them to leave it unprotected (except maybe politically).

    In addition, given the inter-relationships of this badly designed site, hacking the web site can give them access to the IRS, HHS and other even more sensitive databases.

    And in case anyone cares, much of Accenture's programming is done overseas...another area of concern for security, but probably a good idea to invest as it will be very profitable to them.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 1:56 PM, umlguy wrote:

    I think you have SAIC confused with its larger sibling Leidos who has mostly taken the CyberSecurity work with it. SAIC, while it does focus on IT services does not focus on CyberSecurity the way Leidos does. Look at SAIC's public web site and you will not see CyberSecurity anywhere. Look at the Leidos public web site and you will.

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