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Medicare offices stay wary of fraud, data quality issues

Paul Newman Archive

Medicare, not unlike many other government institutions, has a fine line to toe when it comes to managing consumers' information. On one hand, it has a need to use robust data management platforms for understanding people and their tendencies, and for keeping individuals safe from data breaches. On the other hand, there is always concern over mistakes in data quality. So where's the middle ground? How much data is the right amount?

Fierce Health Payer recently shed light on the specifics of this problem. According to the news source, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are currently relying on more than 200 disparate IT systems for managing all of their information. This data ranges from knowledge collected by the federal government to information that's listed on people's Medicare ID cards.

One serious concern with Medicare today is that with people's Social Security numbers currently listed on their ID cards, the threat for data breaches becomes much more serious. Because of this grave situation, the government office is considering deleting SSNs from people's cards, but this seemingly simple act of data management could cost the government up to $317 million.

The Medicare office is considering two possibilities - one is to replace SSNs with new ID numbers, and the other is to shield people from seeing the first five digits. Both proposals come with a host of technical challenges.

Leslie Fried, director of the National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment at the National Council on Aging, told Reuters that she's getting anxious to see this problem addressed.

"At a time when 10,000 baby boomers are becoming eligible every day for Medicare, it's time to begin the process of fixing this," Fried said.

The problems currently faced by Medicare are indicative of a larger principle that applies to any organization. Managing data is a complicated endeavor - and accuracy, efficiency and security all need to be considered.