One Thing Congress Can Agree on: Shielding Seniors From Medicare Fraud

An auxiliary nurse assists a patient in a geriatric unit at the hospital in Angers, western France, on October 23, 2013. The Angers hospital employs 6,000 people including 980 doctors.
National Journal
Clara Ritger
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Clara Ritger
May 1, 2014, 6:21 a.m.

There is one solu­tion to fight­ing Medi­care fraud that most law­makers can agree on: Re­move seni­ors’ So­cial Se­cur­ity num­bers from their Medi­care cards to stop iden­tity theft.

But they can’t agree with fed­er­al agen­cies on how to pay for it.

The House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee held a meet­ing Wed­nes­day to dis­cuss the best way to pro­tect seni­ors from theft and ab­use. Two dif­fer­ent solu­tions have been pro­posed: an out­right re­quire­ment that the Cen­ters for Medi­care and Medi­caid Ser­vices take the num­bers off of the cards, and an al­tern­at­ive to the cur­rent cards — a “smart card,” if you will — that con­tains the data se­curely.

Yet neither has been en­acted. Why?

Money. To change the cur­rent sys­tem, which ser­vices roughly 50 mil­lion seni­ors, CMS would need a hefty sum. There’s the over­head of pro­du­cing new cards and, if the smart cards were ad­op­ted, edu­cat­ing seni­ors and phys­i­cians about how to use their new pieces of plastic.

“While [CMS] agrees that re­mov­ing the So­cial Se­cur­ity num­bers from the Medi­care card is an ap­pro­pri­ate step to re­du­cing the risk of iden­tity theft, CMS can­not make a de­cision to pro­ceed uni­lat­er­ally,” a CMS of­fi­cial said in an email. “CMS, the So­cial Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion, and the Rail­road Re­tire­ment Board must all agree to pro­ceed with the ini­ti­at­ive, and to con­sider all ex­ist­ing work­loads and pri­or­it­ies in light of the fund­ing that is avail­able for such a ma­jor pro­ject.”

The Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­ab­il­ity Of­fice is re­view­ing the smart-card pro­pos­al — re­tir­ing Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Jim Ger­lach’s Medi­care Com­mon Ac­cess Card Act — and is ex­pec­ted to com­plete its ana­lys­is of the ad­min­is­trat­ive and cost bur­den to en­act the pro­gram by the end of the year.

It’s not clear the GAO re­port will re­solve the dis­agree­ment over fund­ing for re­mov­ing So­cial Se­cur­ity num­bers from cards, though. Ac­cord­ing to an aide for Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Sam John­son, who is co­spon­sor­ing the bi­par­tis­an bill to re­move So­cial Se­cur­ity num­bers from the cur­rent cards, CMS wants an ap­pro­pri­ation but Con­gress thinks the agency can carry out the change in a fisc­ally re­spons­ible fash­ion us­ing its own re­sources.

“CMS has been work­ing with the com­mit­tee to find a mu­tu­ally ac­cept­able solu­tion,” a spokes­man said in an email.

What We're Following See More »
STAKES ARE HIGH
Debate Could Sway One-Third of Voters
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 34% of registered voters think the three presidential debates would be extremely or quite important in helping them decide whom to support for president. About 11% of voters are considered 'debate persuadables'—that is, they think the debates are important and are either third-party voters or only loosely committed to either major-party candidate."

Source:
YOU DON’T BRING ME FLOWERS ANYMORE
Gennifer Flowers May Not Appear After All
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

Will he or won't he? That's the question surrounding Donald Trump and his on-again, off-again threats to bring onetime Bill Clinton paramour Gennifer Flowers to the debate as his guest. An assistant to flowers initially said she'd be there, but Trump campaign chief Kellyanne Conway "said on ABC’s 'This Week' that the Trump campaign had not invited Flowers to the debate, but she didn’t rule out the possibility of Flowers being in the audience."

Source:
HAS BEEN OFF OF NEWSCASTS FOR A WEEK
For First Debate, Holt Called on NBC Experts for Prep
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

NBC's Lester Holt hasn't hosted the "Nightly News" since Tuesday, as he's prepped for moderating the first presidential debate tonight—and the first of his career. He's called on a host of NBC talent to help him, namely NBC News and MSNBC chairman Andy Lack; NBC News president Deborah Turness; the news division's senior vice president of editorial, Janelle Rodriguez; "Nightly News" producer Sam Singal, "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd, senior political editor Mark Murray and political editor Carrie Dann. But during the debate itself, the only person in Holt's earpiece will be longtime debate producer Marty Slutsky.

Source:
WHITE HOUSE PROMISES VETO
House Votes to Bar Cash Payments to Iran
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The House passed legislation late Thursday that would prohibit the federal government from making any cash payments to Iran, in protest of President Obama's recently discovered decision to pay Iran $1.7 billion in cash in January. And while the White House has said Obama would veto the bill, 16 Democrats joined with Republicans to pass the measure, 254-163."

Source:
NO SURPRISE
Trump Eschewing Briefing Materials in Debate Prep
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In contrast to Hillary Clinton's meticulous debate practice sessions, Donald Trump "is largely shun­ning tra­di­tion­al de­bate pre­par­a­tions, but has been watch­ing video of…Clin­ton’s best and worst de­bate mo­ments, look­ing for her vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies.” Trump “has paid only curs­ory at­ten­tion to brief­ing ma­ter­i­als. He has re­fused to use lecterns in mock de­bate ses­sions des­pite the ur­ging of his ad­visers. He prefers spit­balling ideas with his team rather than hon­ing them in­to crisp, two-minute an­swers.”

Source:
×