House Considers Bill to Remove Social Security Numbers from Medicare Cards

This week, the House of Representatives passed by voice vote the Medicare Identity Theft Prevention Act (H.R. 1509), first introduced by Representative Sam Johnson  (R-TX) in April 2011.  The bill has 51 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle.

In his remarks this week for the record, Rep. Johnson said, “Mr. Speaker, we know Americans are told not to carry their Social Security cards in case a wallet or purse is lost or stolen. Yet seniors are told they must carry their Medicare card which displays their Social Security number. Not only does this not make sense; it puts seniors at risk… the Medicare Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2012 requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Commissioner of Social Security, to take action to ensure Social Security numbers no longer are used on Medicare cards. …According to CBO, the costs of this bill are fully offset and would not increase the deficit. Lastly, the bill directs GAO to conduct a study to determine whether the Medicare program should use smart card technology…to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse in the Medicare program.”

There are nearly 50 million Medicare beneficiaries in the U.S. One million seniors are affected by identity theft each year.

Medical identity theft has been called one of the fastest growing crimes in America. Its impact can range from simple inconvenience to legal woes, financial devastation, even death. The white paper, Creating a Trusted Environment: Reducing the Threat of Medical Identity Theft, written by the HIMSS Privacy and Security Task Force, addresses this important topic.