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].
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.