Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) issued the following statement after the House passed H.R. 1509, the Medicare Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2012. H.R. 1509, directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish cost-effective procedures to ensure that a Social Security number is not displayed, coded, or embedded on the Medicare card. Schock is a co-sponsor of the legislation, which originated in the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security.
"There are nearly 50 million Medicare cards which currently display Social Security numbers. By continuing to advertise these numbers seniors are being threatened with the unnecessary risk of identity theft, and it leaves the Medicare program exposed to future fraudulent activity," stated Congressman Aaron Schock. "As a victim of identity theft myself, I understand firsthand the impact of these types of crimes. By removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards we are eliminating an unnecessary risk facing millions of American seniors."
In April 2009, Schock offered and passed an amendment to H.R. 629, the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights Act, to strengthen identity theft protections by amending the bill to ensure inactivated credit cards remained on credit reports and prevent lines of credit from being opened in a consumers name without their knowledge.
Background Information on the Medicare Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2012, H.R. 1509
H.R. 1509 directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish cost-effective procedures to ensure that a Social Security number (SSN) is not displayed, coded, or embedded on the Medicare card. Introduced by House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security Chairman Sam Johnson and Subcommittee member Lloyd Doggett, this bipartisan bill has 50 cosponsors.
Today, nearly 50 million Medicare cards display SSNs, the main component of the health insurance claim number. Seven percent or about 8.6 million households, had at least one member age 12 or older who experienced identity theft in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Of these households, over 1 million were headed by seniors, age 65 and older who risk having their SSN stolen to obtain employment, benefits and credit.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) first recommended removing the SSN from government documents in 2002:
In 2007, President George W. Bush's Identity Theft Task Force found that the SSN is "the most valuable commodity for an identity thief" and its first recommendation was to reduce the unnecessary use of SSNs.
That same year, the White House Office of Management and Budget issued a directive to all federal agencies to develop a plan for reducing the use of SSNs in government transactions.
In 2008, the SSA Inspector General recommended that the SSN be removed from Medicare cards.
Both the private and public sectors have removed or are taking steps to remove SSNs from public display.
The Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs are in the process of removing SSNs from 18 million beneficiaries' cards by 2016. Private insurers ceased using SSNs on their cards long ago. Even CMS prohibits Medicare health plans participating in Medicare Advantage and Part D from displaying the SSN on membership cards.