Brown Announced Plans to Reintroduce Bill that would Prohibit the Inclusion of Social Security Numbers on Medicare Cards
Washington, D.C. — In the wake of an Ohio mailing that exposed Social Security numbers (SSNs) that also doubled as identification numbers, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced plans to reintroduce legislation that would protect the identity of Medicare card holders. More than 46 million American seniors, including 1.88 million in Ohio, are exposed to identify theft risk each day as their SSNs double as their Medicare ID numbers – which are listed on the Medicare cards they are instructed to keep in their wallets.
“The Ohio mailing reminds us that we can’t be too vigilant in guarding Social Security numbers,” Brown said. “Yet American seniors are instructed to carry their Medicare cards, which include their Social Security numbers, with them at all times. This exposes them to potential identity theft each day. My bill would remove social security numbers from Medicare ID cards, helping to protect Ohio Medicare beneficiaries from the risk of identity theft.”
The Medicare Identity Theft Protection Act would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), in consultation with the Commissioner of Social Security, to ensure that SSNs are not included on Medicare identification cards. Brown first introduced the bipartisan legislation with U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) in 2008. According to a 2006 Federal Trade Commission Survey Report, 8.3 million Americans were the victims of identity theft in 2005. The report further concludes that those cases cost the U.S. economy over $15 billion.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) reminds citizens on its website not to “routinely carry your social security card or other documents that display your number” in order to prevent identity theft. However, the federal government itself has ignored this warning by issuing more than 44 million Medicare cards that display SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Numbers (HICN) on the front of cards. These numbers contain the beneficiary’s SSN followed by a letter. On the back of these cards, beneficiaries are advised to carry their cards wherever they go—advice in direct opposition to SSA guidance.
According to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) “does not plan to remove the SSN from Medicare identification cards.”