Friday, September 11, 2015

Congressional Quarterly reports on efforts to create Medicare "Smart Cards"

Congressional Quarterly's CQ News reported "Medicare 'Smart Cards' Pitched as Fraud Prevention" in a report written by Alan K. Ota, September 10, 2015.

Two Illinois Republicans, Representative Peter Roskam and Senator Mark S. Kirk are pushing a plan aimed at replacing traditional Medicare cards with smart cards containing computer chips to guard against fraud and identity theft.

Roskam's proposal, H.R. 3220, the Medicare Common Access Card Act, would create a test program to distribute Medicare common access cards to store personal and health-related data. CQ News reports it is expected to draw broad support as a stand-alone bill or as an add-on to other legislation, as the congressional Republicans hunt for ways to curb the growth of Medicare spending.  This would be encouraging for moving the bill through the important Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Congressman Roskam is quoted as saying that allowing health providers to scan the proposed smart cards would “help close the gap on the more than $1 billion lost every week to false claims.”

On the Senate side, Senator Kirk has offered a similar pilot-program proposal,  S. 1871,also dubbed the Medicare Common Access Card Act.  The Senate legislation has the support of Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Oregon Democrat Senator Ron Wyden, ranking member on Senate Finance. CQ News reports that Wyden called the new cards “a constructive tool” and said he was discussing the issue with Senate Finance Committee Chairman, Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch.

The proposals by Roskam and Kirk have support from the Secure ID Coalition, a six-member industry group representing makers of electronic identification cards.

CQ News reports that a recent General Accountability Office study found $60 billion in improper Medicare payments in 2014 that “either were made in an incorrect amount or should not have been made at all.” CQ News also reports that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimated that improper payments made up about 12.7 percent of all Medicare fee-for-service payments in fiscal 2014, and the article quotes Paul Van de Water, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, as predicting that the proposal could help curb Medicare fraud by patients but, it would have a limited effect preventing fraudulent reimbursement claims by health care providers.

It is expected that the new Medicare cards would be similar to identification cards issued to employees of the Defense Department and some other federal agencies, which are used to enter government buildings.  The legislation would require the Department of Health and Human Services to provide the smart cards in three areas with a “high risk of fraud and abuse” and further directs the Department to determine the scope of personal and health-related data stored on the chips, along with appropriate privacy protection measures.  The legislation would also encourage participation in the pilot program by those Medicare beneficiaries who say their personal and health-related data has been compromised.

What role would these cards play in improving positive patient identification?  Are these cards a model for government-issued photo IDs?  Let us know your thoughts.

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