ID expert: Smart cards can save U.S. billions
The U.S. government could save as much as $370 billion during the next 10 years if it adopts smart cards in the Medicare system, identification expert Kelli Emerick recently told an audience.
Speaking at the Smart Card Alliance 2011 Annual Conference, Emerick, executive director of the Secure ID Coalition, said Medicare fraud currently costs the U.S. government approximately $60 billion annually.
By introducing smart cards into the Medicare system, instances of fraud could be reduced by 66 percent, Emerick claimed, leading to potential net savings to the government of approximately $37 billion, after program costs are taken into account.
Emerick also told the audience that the idea of Medicare-targeted smart cards has received interest from lawmakers looking for ways to reduce the government's expenses without cutting services. According to Emerick, Senator Mark Kirk recently questioned health and human services secretary Kathleen Sebelius about the existing Medicare ID cards.
Kirk described the current cards as outdated and noted that the current Medicare system is riddled with waste, abuse and fraud. In such a system, Emerick claimed, smart cards could contribute greatly by providing information about who is receiving services and who is providing them.
At the same conference, James James, director of the American Medical Association's Center for Public Health Preparedness and Disaster Response, spoke about an AMA pilot program that is investigating new ways to improve the availability of individuals' health information.
According to James, there is often a need for background information when providing medical care. Especially in emergency situations, this information can be difficult to access. During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, for example, thousands of injured people required medical attention but were unable to provide information about their health histories.
James told the audience the AMA is piloting a program to create individual health smart cards that contain citizens' identification and medical background information. According to James, focus groups have indicated that members of the public are open to the idea of a smart card with personal health information, as long as they have some control over who is able to access their data.
James indicated the AMA is not yet precisely sure what the new system might look like. Nevertheless, "whatever we have, it's going to be a smart card," he said.
The United States is not the only country considering medical smart cards. According to a recent Gulf News report, smart ID cards issued to citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries will soon carry medical histories stored on smart cards.