Recently, I’ve written about tax fraud and identity theft. An astute reader pointed out that our Medicare cards contain our Social Security numbers and that thieves can use them to open accounts and fraudulently file tax returns.
Here are some more emails referencing Medicare numbers. I am thrilled that Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen read my column and sent me information below as to what she is doing to stop this abuse:
Ms. Gonzalez Caldwell:
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen asked me to write you in response to your Feb. 15 article in the Miami Herald. As you may be aware, the congresswoman has worked to combat Medicare fraud for many years.
Her most recent bill introduced last Congress, the Medicare Fraud Enforcement and Prevention Act, would:
▪ Increase penalties for committing fraud.
▪ Make it easier for the relevant agencies in government to share information about suspected Medicare, Medicaid, or CHIP fraud with appropriate law enforcement officials.
▪ Direct the secretary of Health and Human Services to study the feasibility and benefits in utilizing biometric technology to counter Medicare fraud.
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen plans to reintroduce revised legislation this year and would be glad to consider any of the suggestions you, Citizens Crime Watch of Miami-Dade, or your readers have suggested.
Thank you again for bringing attention to this important issue that affects South Florida and I look forward to hearing from you.
Best regards, Wes Brooks, Legislative Assistant, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), Wes.Brooks@mail.house.gov.
Ros-Lehtinen is going to need your help. Please contact her office at 305-668-2285.
Here’s another email I received, this one from a CPA:
I was thrilled and at the same time saddened when I read your article in this Sunday’s Miami Herald about protecting from identity thieves of Social Security numbers.
Why thrilled? Because when someone like yourself writes about this issue, I as a CPA, really feel the joy of seen someone worrying about this huge problem.
Why sad? Because of what I am going to tell you:
In many occasions, I have written to writers of articles similar to yours, at the Miami Herald, the Tampa Tribune and many others without any reply or action being taken.
We are all very concerned about protecting our Social Security numbers, but have you noticed that all or us over 65 carry it in our wallets, which is the same number used on our Medicare cards, with a letter A behind it?
Whenever we go to a doctor or hospital, or if our wallets or handbags are stolen, anyone will have access to our Social Security numbers even though we do, like you are saying “not to carry it with you.” I am sure you are younger than 65 and haven’t noticed this huge exposure of our [Social Security] numbers.
Can you do something about it? Can you inform your friends at the FBI about it? Can you inform our President and all of the created-committees on Fraud about it? I would like to hear from you and to publish another article, not only in the Miami herald but nationwide. Rafael C. Marqués, CPA
This Medicare fraud issue is not going away until Congress changes how it operates. We now have congresswoman on board. Let’s get the other congressional members to do their part. Maybe even our Miami-Dade legislative delegation can push this subject in Tallahassee?
Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.