From ‘liquid biopsies’ to precision medicine, these five developments will change cancer care in the next decade. Learn more.
by Cathie Gandel, AARP Bulletin, September 2, 2008
Arnold Werner was concerned that his Social Security number was clearly visible on his Medicare card, so the 85-year-old retired chemist from Scott Depot, W.Va., scratched out the two middle digits. “I was worried about identity theft,” he says.
Patrick P. O’Carroll Jr., inspector general of the Social Security Administration, agrees with Werner. “Displaying [Social Security numbers] on Medicare cards unnecessarily places millions of individuals at risk for identity theft,” O’Carroll said in a recent report. Plus, beneficiaries have been instructed to carry their cards with them, increasing their vulnerability.
But the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is reluctant to fix a system that it says is not broken. “There have been no reports of identity theft traced back to Medicare cards,” says Charlene Frizzera, chief operating officer of CMS. “It would cost about $500 million and take three years to start up and five years to implement a new system.” And 44 million Medicare beneficiaries would have to be educated about the change.
Other agencies such as the Veterans Administration do not use Social Security numbers on cards they issue.
The Senate Finance Committee is urging bipartisan legislation that would force CMS to revamp the system. “It is unthinkable that Medicare puts its beneficiaries at risk by continuing to print Social Security numbers on standard identification cards,” says Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
Cathie Gandel is a freelance writer based in New York.
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
Members can save 35% on registration fees.
This tool helps you identify your pills by color, shape and markings.
Members can take a free confidential hearing test by phone.
AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at