As I reported to you many times before, Medicare continues to use enrollees’ Social Security numbers as their identification numbers featured prominently on their Medicare identification cards. This, of course, increases dramatically the risk of identity theft for Medicare enrollees who may lose their card or have their card information stolen, placing them at serious risk of identity theft. Most recently a number of congressmen including Sam Johnson of Texas are now urging that legislation be passed to require Medicare to use a different number. The problem was highlighted again by the recent inspector general report that also urged that such action be taken.
The Social Security number is the key to identity theft. In the hands of an identity thief it can be the first step to accessing credit in your name and ruining your hard earned credit and reputation. The Center for Medicare Services says that they are still studying the problem and trying to find the best way to make the change of identification numbers from the Social Security number to a different number that will not compromise enrollees’ security. Unfortunately, this argument by the CMS falls flat. They have been aware of the problem for many years and have done absolutely nothing while Medicare enrollees continue to become unnecessary victims of identity theft. The Veterans Administration used to use Social Security numbers as their identification numbers until 2004, but was able to readily make the change. It is unfortunate that probably nothing will be done by the CMS until Congress requires Medicare to take action. Until then, if you are a Medicare enrollee, do not carry your card with you in your wallet unless you are going to a medical care provider and need it on a particular day.