Medicare Cards Finally Remove Social Security Numbers
Life just got harder for identity thieves, thanks to some rare cooperation in Congress.
Medicare has always used a person’s Social Security number as their ID number in the Medicare system. They even print the Social Security number directly on the card for everybody to see. ID thieves scan medical records to look for the Medicare ID numbers, knowing they would be Social Security numbers.
Once a thief has the Social Security number and some identifying information, this opens the door to all types of fraud. Filing false tax returns and applying for credit cards is just the tip of the iceberg. From April 2011 to the end of 2014, the Internal Revenue Service stopped more than $63 billion in fake refunds and investigated 19 million suspicious tax returns because of Social Security number theft.
Knowing the obvious risks to the American public, one would think that Medicare administrators would have moved quickly to change the ID numbers. But that was not the case. Senior citizens and various groups have tried for years to make this change. The Medicare administration complained it was too hard and time consuming to change all those numbers.
But two politicians from opposite sides of the aisle, Representative Sam Johnson, a Republican from Texas, and Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat, showed the two parties could still work together. They created a bill that, among other things, required the Medicare system to stop using Social Security numbers as a person’s Medicare ID number.
“The Social Security number is the key to identity theft, and thieves are having a field day with seniors’ Medicare cards,” said Johnson.
Congress gave the Medicare system four years and $320 million to fix the problem. President Obama signed the bill into law last week.
The creation and passage of the bill was probably helped by the recent Anthem data breach, where nearly 80 million Social Security numbers were stolen by identity thieves.