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Mr. PALLONE. I thank my colleague from Texas.
Mr. Speaker, I, like many of my colleagues, am concerned with the problem of identity theft--particularly identity theft from elderly individuals, who can be viewed as easy victims by unscrupulous criminals. I think we all agree that a commonsense step to prevent identity theft and further protect beneficiaries is to remove beneficiary Social Security numbers from their Medicare cards, but it's important to point out that this is not as easy as it would seem at first glance.
Medicare has dozens of claims processing systems, each that will need to be modified to accept a new beneficiary number. Providers, too, will have to ensure their billing systems can accommodate the new numbers. We will need an extensive education campaign to ensure that a new numbering system or the issuance of new cards doesn't simply present a golden opportunity for unscrupulous individuals to find a new way to rip off seniors.
Now, I certainly support the policy goal of H.R. 1509, the Medicare Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2012. This bill provides approximately $300 million to the Secretary of HHS to move forward on removing Social Security numbers from ID cards, yet we do not know whether that amount is sufficient. I'm concerned that if we fail to provide sufficient funding for this task, we may wind up with a programmatic mess, confusion, or even worse. I think we owe it to the Medicare beneficiaries and providers to ensure that this worthy undertaking is done well. In addition, the bill allows for funding of the Social Security Administration's costs but not the costs of the Medicare agency itself, and that's an issue that has to be addressed.
So as we move forward, Mr. Speaker, we must make sure that the funding is sufficient and that both CMS and SSA can equitably access these funds. Beneficiary identity security depends on it.
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