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Costs dip to make Medicare cards more secure

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted June 10, 2013

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New estimates conclude that removing or obscuring Social Security numbers on Medicare identification cards would cost much less than previously thought, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said.

Members of the House Ways and Means Committee long have advocated for changing the beneficiary ID cards to protect seniors from identity theft. During an August 2012 hearing, lawmakers chided CMS officials for not taking action on instructions from Congress and the George W. Bush administration to change the cards. CMS cited projected costs of $850 million that prevented them from acting.

A May 10 cost analysis by CMS shows that providing 55 million new cards that obscure the first five digits of the Social Security number would cost $255 million. Issuing beneficiaries new cards with a unique ID number would cost $317 million. The estimates include costs of cards, customer service and support, and internal systems modifications. The agency identified 71 systems that would need software upgrades and programming.

The new cards could be delivered to patients in 2015 if CMS began the effort this year, the analysis stated.

“It’s time for CMS to act,” said Rep. Sam Johnson (R, Texas). “If they won’t do what’s right for America’s seniors, we will.”

House members have reintroduced legislation that would require the Medicare program to make the change.

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