Washington D.C. – With 9 million victims of identity theft in the United States each year, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today pushed legislation to remove social security numbers from Medicare cards and communications. Forty million Americans carry Medicare cards with their Social Security number listed. Identity theft cost the average victim $631 in 2010—that’s on top of civil, tax and employment problems identity theft causes.
“Listing Social Security numbers on Medicare cards needlessly leaves millions of New Yorkers susceptible to identity theft,” said Senator Gillibrand. “We must protect Medicare beneficiaries by deterring identity theft. Removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards is simple step to help keep our seniors personal information secure.”
The Social Security Number Protection Act prohibits the display of social security numbers on Medicare cards. The legislation also requires the Department of Health and Human Services to eliminate the unnecessary collection of Social Security numbers and prohibits the listing of Social Security numbers in communications to Medicare beneficiaries.
Thirty-three states already bar health insurers from listing Social Security numbers on identification cards; the federal government should follow suit and protect Medicare recipients’ identities. Social Security’s inspector general stressed the need to strike the numbers from Medicare cards, saying “We do not believe a federal agency should place more value on convenience than the security of its beneficiaries’ personal information.”
Social Security numbers on Medicare cards can easily be lifted by thieves. The cards list a Medicare identification number which is the cardholder’s Social Security number plus one or two digits tacked on the end.