CMS Privacy Notice for HealthCare.gov
Table of Contents
CMS, operating HealthCare.gov, does not collect name, contact information, social security number or other similar information unless you choose to provide it. We do collect other limited information automatically from visitors who read, browse, and/or download information from our site. We do this so we can understand how the site is being used and how we can make it more helpful. See the Types of information we collect section below for more information.
Personally identifiable information (PII), defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), refers to information which can be used to distinguish or trace an individual's identity, such as their name, social security number, biometric records, etc. alone, or when combined with other personal or identifying information which is linked or linkable to a specific individual, such as date and place of birth, mother’s maiden name, etc.
If you create a user account, fill out an application for health care coverage, and use other tools on the site (such as identity verification), CMS collects personally identifiable information. This information is collected in order to provide the services HealthCare.gov is designed to offer – to compare health insurance plans based on costs, benefits, and other important features; to determine eligibility for health coverage and cost-sharing reductions; to choose a plan; and to enroll in coverage.
CMS does not sell any information entered into HealthCare.gov. For information on how we share information, see How CMS uses information collected using HealthCare.gov.
Types of information we collect
Information which is automatically collected:
When you browse
Certain information about your visit can be collected when you browse websites. When you browse HealthCare.gov, we, and in some cases our third-party service providers, can collect the following types of information about your visit, including:
- Domain (for example, comcast.com, if you are using a Comcast account) from which you accessed the Internet
- IP address (an IP or internet protocol address is a number that is automatically assigned to a device connected to the web)
- Approximate geographic location based on the IP address of the user’s local system
- Operating system (which is software that directs a computer’s basic functions such as executing programs and managing storage) for the device that you are using and information about the browser you used when visiting the site
- Date and time of your visit
- Pages you visited
- Address of the website that connected you to HealthCare.gov (such as google.com or bing.com)
- Device type (desktop computer, tablet, or type of mobile device)
- Screen resolution
- Browser language
- Geographic location
- Time spent on page
- Scroll depth – The measure of how much of a web page was viewed
- User events (e.g. clicking a button)
(See How HealthCare.gov uses third-party websites and applications below for more information.)
We use this information to measure the number of visitors to our site and its various sections, to help make our site more useful to visitors, and to improve our public education and outreach through digital advertising. Also, this information is sometimes used to personalize the content we show to you on third-party sites. For more information on our practices, see the How CMS uses third-party websites and applications with HealthCare.gov section of this notice.
Information which you may provide:
When you request information:
We collect information including your email address or mobile phone number to deliver alerts or e-newsletters. We use this information to complete the subscription process and provide you with information. You can opt out of these communications at any time by editing your subscription preferences.
When you apply for health insurance coverage:
To establish an account on HealthCare.gov, we collect information such as your first and last name, your email address and your responses to three questions used for password recovery. We use this information to establish and maintain your account to login and utilize HealthCare.gov. Then, when you begin the application process, we collect information from you that is used to verify your identity. CMS contracts with Experian and Symantec to verify the information you disclose as part of this identity proofing and authentication process.
On HealthCare.gov, we provide streamlined applications that allow you to apply for affordable health insurance coverage. When you apply using one of these forms, CMS collects personally identifiable information about you and is authorized to maintain a record of the information related to your application.
After you complete an application, some of your application information may be disclosed to other federal agencies so that your eligibility for affordable health insurance can be determined. These organizations may include the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Defense (DoD), the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), and state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) agencies, and Equifax Workforce Solutions with which CMS engages in an electronic verification process authorized by the Affordable Care Act. Some of your information may also be disclosed manually to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and Peace Corps, but only where necessary to verify whether you are eligible for or enrolled in employer-sponsored coverage. Your information may also be shared with the employer(s) listed on your application for the limited purposes of verifying whether you are eligible for or enrolled in employer-sponsored coverage or advance premium tax credits.
In accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974, a system of records has been created for the collection of personally identifiable information you submit to HealthCare.gov. The original system of records notice entitled, “Health Insurance Exchanges (HIX) Program” was published in the Federal Register on February 6, 2013. This notice was amended on May 29, 2013 and on October 23, 2013. The system of records and modifications can be found at: http://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Computer-Data-and-Systems/Privacy/CMS-Systems-of-Records.html.
For specific details on the data collected by the systems that make up the HealthCare.gov, please view the Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs) located at: http://www.hhs.gov/pia/.
How CMS uses information collected on HealthCare.gov
When processing your application after you apply for health insurance coverage:
We use the application information you choose to provide to determine eligibility for enrollment in a qualified health plan through the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace, Medicaid, CHIP, advance premium tax credits and cost sharing reductions, and certifications of exemption from the individual shared responsibility requirement. We also verify the information provided on the application, communicate with you or your authorized representative and provide the information to the health plan you select so that it can enroll you in a qualified health plan. If you submitted your Marketplace application through the website of an agent, broker or a health insurance company and not through HealthCare.gov, we will also communicate with the entity you applied or enrolled with regarding your application and supply them with your eligibility determination and other related information. You can find more information about how we use the information you provide on the application in the Privacy Act Statements at the following links:
- https://www.healthcare.gov/individual-privacy-act-statement/ for Individuals and Families on the individual Marketplace
- https://www.healthcare.gov/agent-privacy-act-statement/ for Agents and Brokers for the individual Marketplace
- https://www.healthcare.gov/shop-privacy-act-statement/ for the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) for Employers
You can learn more about how we handle your information at: https://www.healthcare.gov/how-we-use-your-data.
When sending you Marketplace messages:
CMS uses the email address (or mobile phone number) you provide us to send emails or Short Message Service (SMS) messages related to the Health Insurance Marketplace, if you have given us permission to send you such emails and text messages. CMS also may use the phone number you provide to call you about Marketplace coverage.
When calling about your application or account:
CMS uses the phone number you provided us to communicate important information about your application or account. Periodically, you may receive prerecorded phone calls from the Marketplace. If you want to stop receiving notifications in the form of prerecorded phone calls, please contact the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 and ask to be added to our do not call list. After we update your account, a Marketplace representative may still call you if there is an issue with your account or health plan, including if:
- A technical error occurred when you applied on HealthCare.gov — you probably saw an error message when completing your application — that prevented:
- You from enrolling in a plan, or
- Your health insurance company from receiving your enrollment information
- The Marketplace needs more information to verify or add to information you entered on your application about your income, citizenship, immigration status, identity, or something else. We do this when some information you provided doesn’t match our records. (Note: This is sometimes called a "data matching issue" or "inconsistency," but both terms mean the same thing.) The Marketplace won’t end health insurance or change savings based on health insurance data matching issues without giving you advance notice. You'll get three warning notices and a reminder phone call before coverage ends or your savings change because of a data matching issue
- Your health insurance company is no longer offering your plan through the Marketplace
When conducting surveys and improving services:
CMS also uses online surveys to collect opinions and feedback. You don’t have to answer these questions. If you do answer these questions, do not include any personally identifiable information in your answers. We analyze and use the information from these surveys to improve the site’s operation and content. The information is available only to CMS managers, members of the CMS communications and web teams, and other designated federal staff and contractors who require this information to perform their duties.
When using third-party tools for website analytics:
CMS uses a variety of third-party web tools for web analytics. CMS uses these tools to collect basic information about visits to HealthCare.gov. This information is then used to maintain the website including: monitoring site stability, measuring site traffic, optimizing site content, and may help make the site more useful to visitors.
The CMS staff analyzes the data collected from these tools. The reports are available only to CMS managers, teams who implement Federally Facilitated Marketplaces programs represented on HealthCare.gov, members of the CMS communications and web teams, and other designated federal staff and contractors who need this information to perform their duties.
When using third-party tools for outreach through digital advertising:
CMS uses third-party web services to conduct outreach and education through the use of digital advertising for the Marketplace. These third-party services may collect information through the use of web beacons that are located on our pages. A web beacon is a see-through graphic image (usually 1 pixel x 1 pixel) that is placed on a web page and, in combination with a cookie, allows us to collect information regarding the use of the web page that contains the web beacon.
We use web beacons to tell when a user is redirected to HealthCare.gov because of a Marketplace advertisement that we ran on another website was clicked on or otherwise interacted with (known as “click tracking” or “conversion tracking”) and to better target Marketplace advertisements (known as “retargeting”) to inform citizens about Marketplace deadlines and the benefits available through HealthCare.gov. See How HealthCare.gov uses third-party websites and applications below for more information on how these tools work.
CMS uses third-party tools to help deliver advertising. Vendors that operate the third-party tools may also gather information about your visits to third-party sites outside of HealthCare.gov. However, while CMS does not track your individual-level activity on the Internet outside of HealthCare.gov, our vendors may collect information automatically collected by HealthCare.gov (not information you provide),and combine it with data they collect elsewhere for targeted advertising purposes. You can opt out of this type of data collection via Privacy Manager, Ad Choices, and Do Not Track. See Your Choices about tracking and data collection below for methods to opt out of this type of collection. The outreach and education analytics tools provide reports which aggregate data such as the number of clicks on advertisements. The reports are available only to CMS managers, teams who implement the insurance affordability programs represented on HealthCare.gov, members of the HealthCare.gov communications and web teams, and other designated federal staff and contractors who need this information to perform their duties.
The Office of Management and Budget Memo M-10-22, Guidance for Online Use of Web Measurement and Customization Technologies, allows federal agencies to use session and persistent cookies to improve the delivery of services.
When you visit a website, its server may generate a piece of text known as a "cookie" to place on your device. The cookie, which is unique to your browser, allows the server to "remember" specific information about your visit while you are connected. The cookie makes it easier for you to use the dynamic features of web pages. Information that you enter into the application is not associated with cookies on HealthCare.gov. Depending on the third-party tool’s business practices, privacy policies, terms of service, and/or the privacy settings you selected, information you have provided to third parties could be used to identify you when you visit HealthCare.gov. These third parties do not/will not share your identity with CMS or Department of Health and Human Services.
There are two types of cookies, single session (temporary), and multi-session (persistent). Single session cookies last only as long as your web browser is open. Once you close your browser, the session cookie disappears. Persistent cookies are stored on your device for longer periods. Both types of cookies create an ID that is unique to your device.
- Session Cookies: We use session cookies for technical purposes such as to allow better navigation through our site. These cookies let our server know that you are continuing a visit to our site. The OMB Memo 10-22 Guidance defines our use of session cookies as "Usage Tier 1—Single Session.” The policy says, "This tier encompasses any use of single session web measurement and customization technologies."
- Persistent Cookies: We use persistent cookies to understand the differences between new and returning visitors to HealthCare.gov. Persistent cookies remain on your device between visits to our site until they expire or are removed by the user. The OMB Memorandum 10-22 Guidance defines our use of persistent cookies as "Usage Tier 2—Multi-session without personally identifiable information.” The policy says, "This tier encompasses any use of multi-session web measurement and customization technologies when no PII is collected." We do not use persistent cookies to collect personally identifiable information. CMS does not identify a user by using such technologies.
CMS also uses the following technologies on HealthCare.gov:
- Persistent Cookies for Digital Advertising – Similar to persistent cookies identified above, CMS uses persistent cookies for outreach through digital advertising. These cookies can also be created on third-party sites and remain on your device between visits to our site until they expire or are removed by you. Consistent with OMB guidance for “Usage Tier 2”, we do not use persistent cookies for outreach to collect personally identifiable information. CMS does not identify a user by using such technologies.
- Web Beacons for Digital Advertising – Also referred to as pixels and\or tracking tags – See-through images placed on certain pages of HealthCare.gov are typically used in conjunction with cookies and are not stored on your device. When you access these pages, web beacons generate a notice of your visit. See the section How CMS uses third-party websites and applications with HealthCare.gov for information on how we use web beacons.
- Website Log Files – Are used as an analysis tool and to tell how visitors use HealthCare.gov, how often they return, and how they navigate through the site.
- Flash – Flash is used to assess the performance of the site and as a player for selected videos depending on the browser a device is using.
- Local Storage Objects - We use Flash Local Storage Objects (“LSOs”) to store your preferences and to personalize your visit.
Your Choices About Tracking and Data Collection on HealthCare.gov
HealthCare.gov offers a Privacy Manager which gives you control over what tracking and data collection takes place during your visit. Third-party tools are enabled by default to provide a quality consumer experience.
The privacy manager provides you with the choice to opt-in or to opt-out of the different categories of third-party tools used by HealthCare.gov: Advertising, Analytics, or Social Media. The privacy manager prevents cookies, web beacons, and Local Storage Objects from being placed on your device. The privacy manager also prevents third-party tools from loading regardless of your cookie settings, which provides consumers with an additional layer of privacy that prevents the tool from loading at all. Because the privacy manager creates a cookie in your browser, the opt-in and opt-out choices you make through the privacy manager will only be effective on the device and browser you used to make your choices, and your choices will expire when the cookie expires. Once the cookie is created, the privacy manager will retain your settings for 3 years from the date of your most recent visit. You may revisit the Privacy Manager to change or renew your choices at any time.
Note that if you disable cookies in your browser, our privacy manager will not be able to store your preferences and will not function properly. If you do not wish to use our privacy manager to opt-out of the tools used by HealthCare.gov, you can opt-out of tools individually, or via the Digital Advertising Alliance (“DAA”) AdChoices icon, discussed in the next subsection.
See the List of Third-party Tools for more information on how to opt-out individually to each service.
If you opt out of the tools used by HealthCare.gov via the privacy manager or by opting out of the tools directly, you will still have access to information and resources at HealthCare.gov. Alternatively, if you do not want to use the website, you can use the call center to apply
AdChoices –CMS includes the Ad Choices icon on all digital advertising that uses “conversion-tracking” or “re-targeting”. See How CMS uses third-party websites and applications with HealthCare.gov to learn about conversion tracking, targeted advertising, and retargeting. The AdChoices icon is usually at or near the corner of digital ads. When you click on the AdChoices icon it will provide information on what company served the ad and information on how to opt-out. For more information on AdChoices, please visit the AdChoices website.
Do Not Track – CMS automatically observes the “Do Not Track” browser setting for digital advertising that uses “conversion-tracking” or “re-targeting”. If “Do Not Track” is set before a device visits HealthCare.gov, third party conversion tracking and retargeting tools will not load on the site. See How CMS uses third-party websites and applications with HealthCare.gov to learn about conversion tracking and retargeting. For more information on Do Not Track or information on how to set the Do Not Track setting in your browser go to the Do Not Track website.
How CMS uses third-party websites and applications with HealthCare.gov
As a response to OMB Memo M-10-06, Open Government Directive, the HealthCare.gov site leverages a variety of technologies and social media services to communicate and interact with the public. These third-party websites and applications include popular social networking and media sites, open source software communities, and more.
Your activity on the third-party websites that HealthCare.gov links to (such as Facebook or Twitter) is governed by the security and privacy policies of those websites. You should review the privacy policies of all websites before using them so that you understand how your information may be used. You should also adjust privacy settings on your account on any third-party website to match your preferences.
CMS manages and oversees a direct enrollment proxy partner program that establishes agreements with certain insurance companies and licensed agents and brokers. These insurance companies, licensed agents, and brokers use their own websites to facilitate enrollment in qualified health plans. These agreements authorize certain third parties to submit eligibility and enrollment information that they collect directly from consumers to the Marketplace for an eligibility determination without using HealthCare.gov. If you choose to apply for coverage with a third party through their website, or with an Agent or Broker whose website relies on an eligibility and enrollment tool provided by another authorized third party, your activity on those third party websites is governed by the security and privacy policies of those websites. If you choose to apply for coverage through a third party, information needed to determine your eligibility status, your final eligibility determination, and other information related to your application and enrollment will be shared between CMS (who runs the Health Insurance Marketplace) and our authorized third parties which include agents, brokers and health insurance companies.
For more information on how your information is used and kept secure when you apply or enroll through an authorized third party without using HealthCare.gov, please see the CMS Privacy Impact Assessment for Direct Enrollment Partner Websites (PDF).
Website Analytics Tools:
These tools collect basic site usage information such as: how many visits HealthCare.gov receives, the pages visited by consumers, time spent on the site, the number of return visits to the site, the approximate location of the device used to access the site, types of devices used, etc. This information is then used to maintain the website including: monitoring site stability, measuring site traffic, optimizing site content, and improving the consumer experience. Use the HealthCare.gov privacy manager to opt-out of website analytics tools.
Digital Advertising Tools for Outreach and Education:
CMS uses third-party tools to support our digital advertising outreach and education efforts. These tools enable CMS to reach new people and provide information to previous visitors. In order to use these tools, we use the following technologies on HealthCare.gov.
Click Tracking – CMS uses click tracking to identify the ads that are most helpful to consumers and efficient for outreach. This enables CMS to improve the performance of ads that consumers click on. When users click on links from ads, data about what ad was viewed is collected. Reports are generated about ad performance – including the total number of views and clicks an ad received.
Conversion Tracking - CMS uses conversion tracking to identify ads that are helpful to consumers and efficient for outreach. It enables CMS to improve the performance of ads viewed by consumers. When a HealthCare.gov ad is viewed on a third-party site (e.g. a banner ad), a cookie is placed in the browser of the device the ad was viewed on. If this device later visits HealthCare.gov, the visit is linked to the ad viewed on the same device. Use the HealthCare.gov privacy manager to opt-out of advertising tools. Users can click on the “AdChoices” Icon in the corner of our Ads to opt-out of this Ad Targeting. Users who have set their browser to “Do Not Track” will automatically be opt-ed out of conversion tracking. For more information about AdChoices and Do Not Track, see “Your Choices about tracking and Data Collection”
Re-targeting - CMS uses retargeting to provide information to consumers who have previously visited HeathCare.gov such as reminders about upcoming enrollment deadlines. Retargeting enables CMS to improve the performance of ads by delivering them to relevant audiences such as recent visitors to HealthCare.gov. During a visit to HealthCare.gov, a cookie is placed in the browser of the devices used to view the site. When that same device is used to visit third-party sites that are displaying HealthCare.gov ads, ads for HealthCare.gov may be shown to that device because it had previously visited HealthCare.gov. Using these cookies, CMS does not collect information about the third-party sites visited by a device. Reports are generated about ad performance – including the total number of views and clicks an ad received. Use the HealthCare.gov privacy manager to opt-out of advertising tools. Users can click on the “AdChoices” Icon in the corner of our Ads to opt-out of this Ad Targeting. Users who have set their browser to “Do Not Track” will automatically be opt-ed out of conversion tracking. For more information about AdChoices and Do Not Track, see Your Choices about Tracking and Data Collection.
Targeted Advertising - CMS uses third-party vendors to engage in targeted advertising (also known as online behavioral or interest-based advertising) to provide information to consumers across their online activities. Targeted advertising involves the collection of data from a particular computer or device. Data regarding web viewing behaviors or application use is gathered to predict user preferences or interests. CMS can have ads delivered to computers or devices based on the preferences or interests inferred from the web viewing behaviors or application use.
Third-party vendors engaged by CMS may also target advertising based on information automatically collected (not information you provide) when you browse the CMS websites or other websites on the internet. You can opt out this type of data collection via our Privacy Manager, Ad Choices, and Do Not Track. See Your Choices about Tracking and Data Collection above for methods to opt out of this type of collection.
CMS may consider new third-party tools or the use of new third-party websites, but CMS will first assess the tools or websites before it is used in connection with HealthCare.gov. CMS will provide notice to the public before adding any new tool to HealthCare.gov. These assessments include a description about how information will be collected, accessed, secured, and stored. See a list of the third-party tools currently being used on HealthCare.gov. Risk assessments for third-party websites and applications are available at http://www.hhs.gov/pia/.
How CMS protects your personal information
CMS is committed to protecting consumer information entrusted with us at HealthCare.gov. If you visit HealthCare.gov and choose to provide us with personally identifiable information through a request for information, paper or electronic form, application, questionnaire, survey, etc., we store your personally identifiable information in a record system designed to retrieve information about you by personal identifier (name, personal email address, home mailing address, personal or mobile phone number, etc.). We will safeguard the information you provide in accordance with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act and the Privacy Act of 1974, as amended (5 U.S.C. Section 552a). CMS, the operator of HealthCare.gov, publishes System of Record Notices in the Federal Register for these record systems, and posts the System of Record Notices on CMS.gov.
The original system of records notice entitled, “Health Insurance Exchanges (HIX) Program” was published in the Federal Register on February 6, 2013. This notice was amended on May 29, 2013 and on October 23, 2013. The System of Records and modifications can be found at http://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Computer-Data-and-Systems/Privacy/CMS-Systems-of-Records.html.
Third-party services are web-based technologies that are not exclusively operated or controlled by a government entity, or that involve significant participation of a nongovernment entity. These services may be separate websites or may be applications embedded within CMS websites. The list of third-party services includes links to relevant third-party privacy policies.
How long CMS keeps data and how it is accessed
CMS will keep data collected long enough to achieve the specified objective for which they were collected. Once the specified objective is achieved, the data will be retired or destroyed in accordance with published draft records schedules of CMS as approved by the National Archives and Records Administration.
CMS does not store information from cookies on CMS systems. The persistent cookies used with third-party tools on HealthCare.gov can be stored on a user’s local system and are set to expire at varying time periods depending upon the cookie. CMS assesses whether the expiration date of a cookie exceeds one year and provides an explanation as to why cookies with a longer life are used on the site in the associated Third-Party Website or Application Privacy Impact Assessment. These explanations can be found at http://www.hhs.gov/pia#Third-Party.
Children and privacy on HealthCare.gov
We believe in the importance of protecting the privacy of children online. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) governs information gathered online from or about children under the age of 13. The HealthCare.gov site is not intended to solicit information of any kind from children under age 13. If you believe that we have received information from a child under age 13, please contact us at 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325).
Links to other sites
HealthCare.gov may link to other HHS sites, other government sites, and/or to private organizations (e.g. health care providers). We link to other websites solely for your convenience and education. When you follow a link to an external site, you are leaving HealthCare.gov and are subject to the external site’s privacy and security policies. Non-federal websites do not necessarily operate under the same laws, regulations, and policies as federal websites. Aside from third-party websites highlighted in this privacy notice, CMS is not responsible for the contents of external web pages and a link to a page does not constitute an endorsement.
Your Privacy on Social Media Sites & Other Sites that Require Registration
CMS uses Social Media Sites (listed below) in order to increase government transparency, enhance information sharing, promote public participation, and encourage collaboration with the agency.
Please note that Social Media Sites are not government websites or applications; they are controlled or operated by the Social Media Site. CMS does not own, manage, or control social media sites. In addition, CMS does not collect, maintain or disseminate information posted by visitors to those Social Media Sites. If you choose to provide information to a Social Media Site through registration or other interaction with the site the use of any information you provide is controlled by your relationship with the Social Media site. For example, any information that you provide to register on Facebook is voluntarily contributed and is not maintained by CMS. This information may be available to CMS Social Media Page Administrators in whole or part, based on a user's privacy settings on the Social Media site. However, CMS will not use PII, if provided by you to a Social Media Site or other site that requires registration, for targeted advertising or retargeting. Although you may voluntarily contribute to a Social Media Site with the intent to share the information with others on a CMS Social Media Page, to protect your privacy, please do not disclose personally identifiable information about yourself or others.
Additional privacy information
If you would like more information about the application of the Privacy Act at CMS, please read the Privacy Act of 1974 located at http://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Computer-Data-and-Systems/Privacy/PrivacyActof1974.html.
Updated: October 25, 2017