Thursday, June 04, 2009

Like to be a fly on the wall? Next teleconference on government regulations...

Future Town Hall Teleconference Meeting Dates - All town hall teleconferences will be held from 1:00pm to 3:00pm EST, unless otherwise noted.
  • June 9 - Liability (including Self-Insurance), No-Fault Insurance and Workers' Compensation Policy - Q&A

  • July 1 - Liability (including Self-Insurances), No-Fault Insurance and Workers' Compensation Technical Support Q&A

  • July 8 - GHP (Group Health Plans) NOTE: This is like the one I covered today, June 4th, 2009. This teleconference will cover questions related to employer-paid health plans.
Visit the CMS site for a complete schedule through the end of 2009.

Worried about privacy? You should be. Update on MMSEA 111 teleconference

I just finished my first live Tweet reporting of a teleconference hosted by Medicare (technically, the "Centers for Medicare and Medicaid," or CMS). It was about the new federal requirement for employers to send quarterly reports of all subscriber personal information. I will create a report of my Tweets and post them where you can read them, or feel free to browse In the meantime, here are my impressions:

1. CMS representatives sounded supportive, asking participants with questions to send details via email so they could help them after the teleconference.

2. HOWEVER--although CMS representative Bill Decker opened the session with assurances that this new government regulation is for cross-checking Medicare beneficiaries only, questions from attendees came up about getting social security numbers of spouses or employees in other locations who were refusing to provide them, as well as dates of birth. CMS's response: "We ask you to *ask* for the SSN, it doesn't hurt to ask." Sounds like if SSNs can be obtained, then go for it.

3. The new mandatory reporting allows employers to satisfy this requirement in either of two ways:
  • By submitting "Active Covered Individuals" [those eligible for Medicare: age 55, handicapped, or on kidney dialysis]
  • Or by using the "Finder File" feature [collect ALL employee and dependent personal information, filter list against Medicare's list or hire an outside contractor to do this, then submit to Medicare].
However, in both cases, the employer will be asking employees for spousal and dependent SSNs and dates of birth in order to determine Medicare eligibility--or, like my husband's employer, collect the information and send it to an outside third party to do the filter for submission to CMS.

I reiterate--I DO NOT WANT my husband's employer to have my SSN, or worse, some "outside third party." The SSN was never intended to be used as a de facto identifier anyway, so I object anytime it is used in this manner. Also, giving my SSN to an employer with whom I have no other contact is creepy. Why should they be able to access any information about me (or my children)? I know they're not "supposed to," but the potential for that exists; just think of Joe the Plumber (more details here).

But perhaps most frighteningly, giving up my SSN exposes me to greater potential of identity theft, since the information will be collected and disseminated in a myriad of electronic locations beyond my control, or beyond legitimate uses by the IRS or any of my previous actual employers. All it takes is for someone to lose a hard drive or for someone to steal a laptop for my personal information--and yours--to be compromised.

Tell me what you think.

In the meantime, if your spouse's employer asks for your SSN, use this form instead provided by the same agency requiring the collection of this information.

As for the potential for turning this into a National Healthcare Database, I think you can see how easy it would be to enlarge this system beyond simply "Medicare recipients." To comply, employers are already gathering your personal information for their quarterly reports to the government, including unprecedented collection of information on spouses and children of employees. It could be used as a national database of current healthcare beneficiaries, just a step away from becoming a national healthcare database.

Secret attempt to build National Healthcare Database already underway?

ALERT: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), a branch of the Health & Human Services department of the federal government, is requiring employers under stiff penalites to gather and report all employee social security numbers, PLUS the SSNs of their SPOUSES and CHILDREN. Normally, an employer does not have the SSNs of an employee's family members as most health care benefits are paid under the employee's SSN. This "mandatory reporting" requirement began as a test mode earlier this year and is underway NOW.

There is a lot more detail about this regulation, but it is not only a violation of privacy and (possibly) SSN rules, it may be a disguised method for building the National Healthcare Databasethat the Obama administration has been talking about without allowing any national discussion or input from We The People.

Read more about the new MMSEA 111 regulation being implemented NOW, here at the CMS site.

Additionally, CMS is conducting a teleconference TODAY, June 4th, from 1pm to 3pm EST. As soon as I get the phone number, I will post it here on my blog, plus I'll announce it on Twitter and Facebook.
800-779-4354 - read the instructions HERE.*

THIS IS WRONG. We all must protest this activity NOW. I am in the process of contacting various news outlets to bring attention to this issue, but I need your help.

Here is my email I am using, and I encourage you to use this if you wish to contact your representatives and news outlets, too:
TODAY at 1pm EST, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) is conducting a teleconference call to explain to employers and insurers the NEW mandatory regs on collecting Social Security Numbers of not only covered employees in group plans, but their SPOUSES and their CHILDREN to be submitted quarterly to the CMS office through third party contractors.

I learned about this when the human resources department at my husband's employer contacted him via email requesting my SSN, although I am not an employee. I didn't want them to have my SSN nor access to my health records, so I investigated this and discovered that although this new regulation, called "MMSEA 111," is supposedly to identify group health participants who are also eligible for Medicare (I am not)--to reportedly stop Medicare fraud--but it could easily be a secret effort to set up a National Healthcare Database without public knowledge or consent.

This requires employers to throw a wide net to gather SSNs of spouses and children which they don't normally have in their records since benefits are usually paid under the employee's SSN--and as I mentioned, it shifts the burdern of verifying Medicare recipients from the public to the private sector and may be the first step toward a NATIONAL HEALTHCARE DATABASE.

NO ONE in the media is talking about this. The process started late last year and the additions to Medicare regulation was signed just a few months ago at the end of December 2008, and is being implemented RIGHT NOW.

I am not eligible for Medicare, nor does anyone in my family receive Medicare benefits, so therefore, we should NOT have to turn over our SSNs to my husband's employer nor to CMS! This is a violation of our privacy rights and our right to protect our own SSNs. My husband is upset at me now, because he fears losing his job over not giving up my SSN (top management there do not like what they perceive to be "troublemakers"). But this is wrong.


Here is a direct link to this information at CMS:

The next deadline for employers to comply with this new regulation is July 1st, just a few weeks away, during this initial "testing" phase in gathering and transferring all of these SSNs from employers to third party contractors who will then forward it to CMS.

Please help dig out the details of this massive collection of employee's families' private information, which includes the name, SSN, date of birth, and gender. This is gross example of a federal agency shifting the burden of verifying Medicare recipients--which is the agency's responsibility--to the private sector. But more insidiously, this may be a "behind-the-scenes" effort to build that National Healthcare Database without public discussion and voter participation.

Again, the teleconference is TODAY, June 4th, from 1pm to 3pm EST (800-779-4354).

I have a background as a human resources director and benefits specialist, so I understand the issues at stake. I welcome your questions and urge you to get this information out to the public as quickly as possible.


Kimn Swenson Gollnick

* (PLEASE NOTE: If you join the teleconference, I suggest that you do so to listen only. I do not advise nor condone turning it into a protest, but to use it as a way to gather more information on this new regulation and to monitor the government's actions.)