Costly to alter, Medicare cards will carry SSNs
Would you please try to find out when the federal government will be replacing Social Security numbers on our Medicare cards with another identifying number? Because of the threat of identity theft, we are told not to carry our Social Security numbers with us, but this is almost the same thing if we carry our Medicare cards.
Answer: National consumer groups have long been calling for the removal of Social Security numbers from Medicare cards, and measures have been introduced in Congress to require their removal.
So far, nothing has been done.
Officials of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit consumer organization based in San Diego, say they know of no current legislation to limit the use of Social Security numbers.
In the past, officials with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which administers Medicare, have said they would look into removing the numbers from Medicare cards but that such a move would cost more than $100 million. It would entail changing its computer system as well as issuing new cards to more than 42 million people.
The issue is likely to come up before Congress again, but whether it passes this time is uncertain, according to a local congressional aide.
Tena Friery, research director for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, noted that President Bush's Identity Theft Task Force addressed the government's use of Social Security numbers as an identifier.
"So, it's possible we'll see some move toward change from this effort," she said.
One of the interim recommendations from the task force is that the Office of Management and Budget "should require all federal agencies to review their use of SSNs to determine where such use can be eliminated, restricted or concealed in agency business processes, systems, and paper and electronic forms."
A 2004 report from the federal Government Accountability Office found that Social Security numbers simply have become the most convenient form of identification, with federal, state and local governments -- and private businesses -- using them for many purposes other than Social Security.
To the driver of the Mercedes speeding through Waikiki on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 11. I was abiding by the 25 mph speed limit, and you had no right to honk, swear and wave your fist to intimidate me. With the rising problem of pedestrian fatalities occurring on the island, please be aware that everyone should try their best to be courteous and mindful on the road. I noticed you had a handicap placard hanging on your rearview window. Should you really be speeding and displaying road rage? Let's all try to be more careful and courteous on the road. Just because you have the privilege of driving a Mercedes doesn't give you any more authority to "own the road" over someone who drives a Toyota. -- No Name
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
. See also: Useful phone numbers