The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that waste, fraud and abuse costs the Medicare program $60 billion each year -- real money that should be used to help our seniors pay for hospital visits, prescription drugs and other medical care.
At the same time, seniors are carrying Medicare cards that could give anyone access to their Social Security number and potentially open the door to identity theft.
Congressman Jim Gerlach (PA-6th District) joined a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate on Wednesday to unveil legislation aimed at cutting waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare and making seniors' personal information more secure.
The proposed Medicare Common Access Card Act of 2011 would establish a pilot program to develop a secure Medicare card using smart-card technology to protect seniors personal information, prevent fraud and speed payment to doctors and hospitals. One of the many improvements would be that Social Security numbers would no longer be printed on the front of Medicare cards.
"Cutting fraud, waste and abuse is critical to strengthening Medicare and making sure seniors continue to have access to the care they need," Gerlach said. "Taxpayers and seniors deserve the protection against identity theft and fraud that this legislation would provide. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate on this simple, low-cost solution for bringing the Medicare card into the 21st Century."
According to a Government Accountability Office report, fraudulent Medicare claims robbed taxpayers of $48 billion in 2010.
The bill would establish a two-phase system for developing and implementing secure, smart card technology for seniors enrolled in Medicare and treatment providers. Similar technology is used for roughly 20 million cards issued by the Department of Defense.
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois has introduced a companion bill in the Senate, and the legislation is endorsed by AARP.
Patrick Hearn, Vice President of Government and Identification Markets - America's at Oberthur, currently the leading provider of smart cards to the Federal Government, lauded Congress for working to utilize technology to improve the Medicare system.
"Oberthur Technologies is pleased to see Congress propose an Act to achieve a made-in-America solution that combats fraud, waste and abuse in one of the most important benefits programs in the United States," Hearn said. "We look forward to using our existing solutions to help ensure those who receive benefits as well as the American taxpayer have a world class interoperable infrastructure that respects privacy, enhances speed of payment and meets the needs of medical professionals, clinicians and other important stakeholders."
Oberthur Technologies has operations in Exton, Chester County, Pennsylvania and is a worldwide leader in security and identification services based on smart card technology.