Lawmakers are again eyeing ways to modernize the Medicare system, including a revamping of the identification cards used by Medicare beneficiaries. On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means’ health subcommittee held a hearing on spurring innovation in the health care system. In the meeting, Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) said that he will revive legislation that will replace traditional Medicare identification cards with electronically readable cards.
As we discussed last year, the move is caused by two provisions in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). The first provision requires Social Security Numbers to be removed from Medicare identification cards within four years after MACRA’s enactment. The second provision requires the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to consider using electronic Medicare beneficiary and provider cards if the Secretary determines that it is cost effective and technologically viable. A report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) entitled “Medicare — Potential Uses of Electronically Readable Cards for Beneficiaries and Providers“ casts some doubt on whether a robust implementation of electronically readable cards is either cost effective or technologically viable. However, electronically readable Medicare cards could receive a more limited introduction as means of more efficiently conveying beneficiary identity and insurance information. In addition to reducing errors, this could serve to combat fraud that is made possible by the personal information currently found on each beneficiary’s identification card.