March 9, 2015
The Honorable Sam Johnson, Chairman
Subcommittee on Social Security
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Lloyd Doggett
U. S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20015
Dear Chairman Johnson and Representative Doggett:
On behalf of the millions of members and supporters of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, I write to endorse your bill, H. R. 380, the “Medicare Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2015.” The National Committee commends you for once again introducing legislation requiring the removal of Social Security numbers (SSNs) from Medicare cards.
The “Medicare Identity Theft Prevention Act” addresses the current conflict Medicare beneficiaries face. The Social Security Administration advises Americans to keep their Social Security card in a safe place while, at the same time, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) tells beneficiaries to carry their Medicare card – which includes their Social Security number – with them at all times. If a Medicare beneficiary’s Social Security number falls into the wrong hands, they could become a victim of identity theft and/or of having fraudulent benefit claims submitted to the Medicare program.
It is my understanding that the U. S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) first recommended removing Social Security numbers (SSNs) from government documents in 2002, and that in a 2008 the SSA Inspector General reported that displaying SSNs on beneficiaries’ Medicare cards unnecessarily places millions of Americans at risk for identity theft and that the SSN should be removed from Medicare cards. That same year, the House of Representatives responded by passing your legislation directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish cost-effective procedures to ensure that SSNs are not used on Medicare cards moving forward. Unfortunately, the Senate did not act and neither has CMS.
As recently as 2014, the GAO testified at congressional hearings on ways CMS could reduce fraud in Medicare, including “the removal of Social Security numbers from the millions of Medicare cards.” CMS testified that they agree with the GAO’s recommendations, but that they could not proceed for several reasons including funding limitations and the lack of a process for developing and transitioning to a new identifier. However, other federal agencies and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program have removed SSNs from their identification cards and replaced them with other identifiers.
The National Committee agrees with you that the time is now to protect our seniors from identity theft. We strongly endorse H. R. 380, the “Medicare Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2015,” and we look forward to working with you to enact this important legislation.
President and CEO