How to Prevent Identity Theft with Your Medicare ID Card
A recent Reuters article highlights an identity security problem for U.S. seniors. Identification cards issued by Medicare contain instructions to carry the card with you at all times. But your card also contains your full social security number (SSN). Losing the card places you at risk of identity theft and fraudulent benefit claims.
No government agencies track data on theft of Social Security numbers from Medicare cards, but it is clearly a problem. The Department of Health and Human Services recently announced the recovery of $4.3 billion from attempted federal health insurance fraud schemes in a single fiscal year – a record high.
In 2007, the George W. Bush administration ordered all federal agencies to cease any unnecessary use of Social Security numbers. And the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) acknowledges the need to remove SSNs from Medicare cards. But doing so would cost between $255 and $317 million, according to a Government Accountability Office report – funds that are hard to secure.
In the meantime, the AARP recommends seniors do not carry the cards, saying it is usually unnecessary to do so. An AARP representative told Reuters her recommendation for seniors who are uncomfortable being without the card is to make a photocopy of it with the first five digits of their Social Security number masked out. Then you can have proof of Medicare enrollment with you, just in case, while protecting yourself from identity theft.