Medicare id card using Social Security number as a part of identification number issue is not new and it comes and goes. Recently it surfaced again during the presidential campaign when someone waved the card at the election rally.
Everybody knows that carrying Social Security card in the wallet is a bad idea, not only because it’s paper based and therefore not very wear resistant but primarily because the Social Security number can be read out of it directly without even any decryption. Moreover there is no need to carry SS id card. Things are different when it comes to Medicare cards, these needs to be carried as patients need them to obtain medical services yet the id card contains the Social Security number which when stolen and combined with other personal data which can be found in a wallet makes powerful tool of stealing the money.
Why is it there? Simply because the program is old. Medicare was founded by Congress in 1965, those were the days where there was no photo on the driver’s licenses and identity theft was a very rare crime.
Why it hasn’t been fixed? Simply because it’s too big to fix and therefore too expensive. The program covers 48 million people in the US and it’s estimated it would cost close to a billion dollars upgrade the cards. It’s not just the cards that cost so much but the computer infrastructure, training and upgrades at medical facilities to be compatible. You don’t have to be an expert in finance to know that such spending is a no go under current federal budget deficit conditions.
No hope? Not around the corner for sure. There is a solution already in the pipe, it plans to replace current cards with smart id cards (the ones containing chip with encrypted data), costs 1.3 billion to implement and promises to save 50-100 billion a year in cutting waste and fraud and has bipartisan support and was submitted to Congress little over a year ago and it’s still there. My gut is telling me that medical industry is not there yet and therefore the legislation lacks the necessary steam to push through.