WASHINGTON, April 20 (UPI) -- Medicare cards will no longer display Social Security numbers, in an effort to change the way doctors are paid for treating Medicare patients and to prevent identity theft.
President Barack Obama requested a $50 million down payment "to support the removal of Social Security numbers from Medicare cards" in his 2016 budget. Federal auditors and investigators have recommended removing the numbers for more than a decade, and Obama signed a bill doing so last week.
The move was prompted by the rise of electronic health records and recent cyberattacks. Anthem Health Insurance, one of the country's largest, recently suffered a data breach.
"The Social Security number is the key to identity theft, and thieves are having a field day with seniors' Medicare cards," Representative Sam Johnson, R-Texas, said. The move was co-sponsored with Representative Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas.
More than 4,500 people sign up for Medicare daily. Medicare enrollment could reach up to 74 million people by 2025.
The Anthem data breach exposed about 80 million Social Security numbers. From April 2011 to the end of 2014, the Internal Revenue Service protected more than $63 billion in fraudulent refunds and stopped 19 million suspicious tax returns.