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Support for H.R. 1509, Medicare Indentity Theft Prevention Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Unknown

Mr. LEVIN. Mr. Speaker, I support H.R. 1509, the Medicare Identity Theft Prevention Act. There has been longstanding bipartisan support--led by Ways and Means Members LLOYD DOGGETT and SAM JOHNSON--for removing Social Security numbers from Medicare beneficiary cards. A similar bill passed the House all the way back in 2008, but the Senate failed to act. No progress has been made on this issue in the intervening years.

That said, I must express concern about violating regular order in bringing this bill to the floor today. There are technical edits that we believe are important to make before it is signed into law. Unfortunately, because it didn't move through the committee process, such changes are impossible under the suspension of the rules.

Removing Social Security numbers is one step to protecting beneficiaries from identity theft. The Social Security number is especially valuable to identity thieves as it serves as the key to authenticating an individual's identity in order to open accounts or obtain other benefits in the victim's name. Identity theft can be particularly devastating to seniors because their incomes are so modest.

We have held hearings on these issues and our Members have voted for these protections numerous times. No one can question our commitment here. But I would urge that we work to make sure that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Social Security Administration are provided appropriate funds for such a large undertaking as its been the cost and complexity which has held up this issue for so long.

The Social Security number is printed on the Medicare card beneficiaries carry in their wallets. It is used for communication between the beneficiary and Medicare, providers billing Medicare, enrollment transactions with Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare prescription drug plans, and communications within and between Medicare's 50 internal information systems and between Medicare and the Social Security Administration.

This is not as simple as printing new cards as some would lead us to believe. It requires revising numerous computer systems as well as significant beneficiary and provider education. And, there are serious risks to beneficiaries' access to care and out-of-pocket costs if mistakes are made.

The cost will likely be in the hundreds of millions. Yet, the Medicare agency and Social Security Administration have been underfunded by Republicans for years. They are working with minimal administrative budgets. This bill improves on the 2008 legislation passed with bipartisan support because it provides funding. But we must make sure that the funding is sufficient and that both the Medicare agency and Social Security Administration equitably access these funds.

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