Oct 102012
 
 October 10, 2012  Breaches

Kelly Kennedy reports:

More than a quarter-million Medicare beneficiaries are victims of identity theft and hampered in getting health care benefits because the government won’t issue new IDs, according to an investigation report released today.

Medicare officials say it’s too expensive and too many agencies are involved to reissue those numbers to patients victimized by identity theft — about 284,000 beneficiaries, according to a report by the Department of Health and Human Service’s inspector general.

Beneficiary numbers are directly connected to a patient’s Social Security number, and the government is unable to create a new Social Security number for a patient whose Medicare identity has been stolen, according to the report, which was obtained by USA TODAY.

And beneficiaries can do little more than report abuse of their beneficiary numbers because the government does not provide them with updates about investigations or amend their records with correct billing information. That, investigators say, slows down access to care.

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