Earlier this year, Congress passed legislation to require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to remove social security numbers from Medicare cards by 2019. Federal funding was provided so the change could be made.
In a Senate Committee hearing, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) said other federal agencies such as the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs have removed social security numbers as identification, but the CMS has not done enough.
“CMS has made minimal steps toward removing social security numbers from Medicare cards despite continued warnings from the Government Accountability Office in 2004, 2012, 2013 and 2015,” said McCaskill. Although CMS has offered a proposed plan and timeline, it has been quote planning to switch from using social security numbers as identifiers to alternative identifiers for almost a decade.”
Sean Cavanaugh, Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Medicare at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, testified at the hearing. He said the centers will make the appropriate changes by April 2019.
“This is a substantial undertaking requiring coordination with federal, state and private stakeholders, updating and modifying numerous IT systems, and conducting extensive outreach to beneficiaries, providers and other stakeholders. CMS must accomplish these tasks without disrupting beneficiaries’ access to care or payments to providers. CMS will assure a smooth transition by moving forward thoughtfully,” said Cavanaugh.
McCaskill said roughly 41-million Americans are enrolled in Medicare and those with social security numbers on their Medicare cards are at risk of identity theft and medical fraud.
She said medical identity theft is the fastest growing form of healthcare fraud.