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February 13, 2016

Anti-Fraud Bill Presses CMS to Nix Social Security Numbers on Medicare Cards

Medicare identification cards would no longer display beneficiaries’ Social Security numbers under a new bill outlined recently by the chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, released the draft text of a measure that compiles a wide range of suggestions to thwart Medicare and Medicaid payment fraud and abuse. The proposals– collected from a bipartisan suggestions offered by committee members — range from halting payments for health services provided to deceased beneficiaries to enhanced fraud abuse monitoring of various specific provider payments, such as those for medical equipment, vacuum erection systems and ambulance services.

The aim of ending the printing of Social Security numbers on Medicare cards is to protect against possible fraud against Medicare beneficiaries, rather than to save the program’s money. The Medicare card is one of the few remaining federal documents that still display the full Social Security number, opening up the possibility for identity theft if the card is lost or stolen.

Eliminating Social Security numbers on the card is a long-running bipartisan congressional objective that has not been taken up by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. HealthBeat’s John Reichard reported in April on questions about the ID card posed to CMS official at a panel hearing on Medicare fraud. The Medicare agency insists that it lacks the resources to make the change.

The Government Accountability Office in 2012 reviewed several options offered to CMS to change the Medicare card. The suggestions included replacing the number, only partially displaying it, or denoting it in a machine readable bar code.


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