A pair of Democratic senators introduced a bill on Tuesday that would remove Social Security numbers (SSNs) from Medicare beneficiary cards, arguing the federal health program needs to catch up with states and organizations that have recognized the danger of displaying the sensitive identifiers.
Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Kristen Gillibrand of New York said their bill mirrors efforts in 33 states to ban health insurers from displaying an SSN on a beneficiary’s card.
The federal government stopped using the numbers on Veteran ID cards, Defense Department IDs and health insurance cards issued to employees within the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program.
“Listing Social Security numbers on Medicare cards needlessly leaves millions of Americans susceptible to identity theft,” Ms. Gillibrand said.
The bill would require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to come up with procedures to eliminate the unnecessary collection or display of SSNs within three years.
Under the bill, CMS must stop issuing new cards that display the numbers and eliminate the display or unencrypted electronic storage of the numbers on all cards within five years.
The legislation also bans the display of SSNs on written and electronic correspondence with Medicaid beneficiaries, unless it is essential to operations.