GOP leaders on a House committee are pushing the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to change the way it identifies people on Medicare, an issue seniors have be vocal about for more than a decade. Specifically, today the GOP lawmakers charged that the HHS must remove Social Security numbers from the Medicare card.
Reps. Wally Herger (R-Calif.) and Sam Johnson (R-Texas) of the House Ways and Means Committee have argued that the Medicare card needs and overhaul to protect seniors and taxpayers. They linked their cause to a new report that links the Medicare card to identity theft.
This report is a wakeup call for [the Medicare agency] to heed the advice of its own Inspector General and take immediate action to develop a new system for protecting seniors from medical identity theft,” Johnson said in a statement.
Johnson goes on to say that all seniors are urged not to carry their Social Security card (to protect the number), but at the same time they need to keep their Medicare card with them at all times to ensure they will receive healthcare when needed.
According to the new HHS inspector general report, the department has failed to take the steps necessary to protect Medicare beneficiaries from the growing threat of identity theft when they use their card. The report goes on to suggest innovative ways to ensure that beneficiaries whose identities have been stolen can continue to receive healthcare.
According to a memo from Ways and Means Republicans, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has known about the risk issue to both seniors and taxpayers for more than a decade. Will the new inspector general report convince CMS to move forward?
Though years of CMS indifference and delay make me skeptical, my hope is that this report finally persuades the agency to stop use of the SSN as the Medicare identification number,” said Herger, leads the House Ways and Means Health subcommittee.
Medicare Common Access Card Act of 2011
In late 2011 the Medicare Common Access Card Act of 2011 was introduced in both the House and the Senate. The bill proposes the use of a military-style Common Access Card (CAC). The bill’s champions – Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representatives Jim Gerlach (R-PA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) – deserve to be applauded for their dedication to this effort. It’s difficult to understand why the HHS and CMS continue to dig their heels in and not take action.
The CAC has been vetted by more than 20 million soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and national guardsmen for over twenty years. The CAC enables encrypting and cryptographically signing identity credentials, and to date it has never been counterfeited. It offers a huge benefit for both seniors and CMS, alike.
By requiring both beneficiaries and Medicare providers to simultaneously use a CAC to approve and submit bills for Medicare related services, fraud perpetrated through fake bills can be stopped at the source. Additionally, using a CAC will streamline the medical billing process in the same way that credit card terminals did away with swiping credit cards in triplicate across carbon paper receipts.
All seniors should urge their representatives to pass the Medicare Common Access Card Act of 2011. It saves billions in taxpayer dollars while keeping seniors safe from identity theft.