Sharing your Social Security number can be a dangerous, even if you have no choice but to share it. Disclosing your number makes it easy for a thief to steal your identity, your money and your peace of mind.
Despite years of complaints and controversy, Medicare identification cards still carry Social Security numbers, adding to the annual $60 to $90 billion in Medicare and Medicaid fraud, according to estimates from the Government Accountability Office.
In the last dozen years, there have been several congressional attempts to require Medicare to use some other form of identification, but the efforts have gone nowhere. Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee expedited the Protecting the Integrity of Medicare Act, H.R. 1021, which would require the removal of Social Security numbers from all Medicare cards within four years.
Does this bill have a future? Maybe. For one thing, the effort is bipartisan. It is co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, and U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), the committee's ranking member. It also has 27 other co-sponsors.
Besides removing Social Security numbers from Medicare identification cards, the bill would mandate several other anti-fraud measures that would:
- Require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to use a 10-digit identification number as the only allowed prescriber identifier for the Medicare prescription drug program. All claims must be submitted with a valid ID number. This allows tracking of multiple fraudulent prescriptions. It also encourages the use of smart cards for secure payment.
- Encourage sharing of Medicare-Medicaid fraud data. Today, Medicare and Medicaid and some states don't share information, allowing fraudsters to scam with impunity, according to Larry McNeely, policy director for the National Coalition on Health Care, a nonprofit that lobbies for affordable health care.
- Mandate an improved plan to encourage more people to report Medicare and Medicaid fraud and abuse, including increased cash rewards. The current top reward from StopMedicareFraud.gov is $1,000.
- Enable Part D and Medicare Advantage plans that include prescription drug coverage to find better ways to identify and prevent the abuse of opioids and other kinds of painkillers.
You can read the whole bill here.
"It is crazy that it takes an act of Congress to remove Social Security numbers, but it apparently does," McNeely says.
"If Congress would just quit kicking each other in the shins and get moving, they could do a lot to reduce the cost of health care," McNeely says.
Here are seven costly frauds that target older people.