Good morning. We welcome our colleagues from the Subcommittee on Health who join us today to focus on the importance of removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards.
For many years now, protecting the Social Security number has been a priority of the Ways and Means Committee that both sides agree on. So far this session, we have had numerous hearings on the role of the Social Security number in the growing crime of identity theft.
We have learned how identity thieves prey on anyone, including those most vulnerable like seniors and children, even children who have died.
According to the Government Accountability Office, Social Security numbers are the ``identifier of choice'' and are used for all sorts of financial transactions. In an April 2007 report, President George W. Bush's Identity Theft Task Force identified the Social Security number as "the most valuable commodity for an identity thief."
It's no wonder the Department of Justice reports that seven percent or 8.6 million households had someone over the age of twelve experience identity theft.
We all know Americans are told not to carry their Social Security cards to protect their identity in case a wallet is lost or stolen. Yet seniors are told they must carry their Medicare cards which displays their Social Security numbers. Not only does this make no sense, it puts Medicare beneficiaries at risk.
In 2007, the White House Office of Management and Budget issued a directive to all federal agencies to develop plans for reducing the use of Social Security numbers.
The Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs are now phasing out the use of Social Security numbers on their ID and medical cards. I applaud them for taking this action and for taking this action on their own.
If some of our largest federal agencies, along with most private insurance providers, can stop the public display of Social Security numbers, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, or CMS, should too.
If CMS won't do what's right for America's Medicare beneficiaries, then Congress must act. That's why I, along with my fellow Texan and Subcommittee on Social Security member, Congressman Lloyd Doggett, have introduced legislation, H.R. 1509, the Medicare Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2011.
Our bill directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards. A similar bill of ours passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2008 on a voice vote.
I thank my colleague from Texas for his work on this important issue and all my Committee colleagues for their support. I hope we will soon get this important legislation passed.
I thank each of our witnesses for sharing their findings and recommendations and look forward to hearing your testimony.