Yesterday afternoon, two Senate Finance Committee staffers directly addressed Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) redundant and misguided claim that Sen. Max Baucus’ (D-MT) health care bill will allow undocumented immigrants who possess stolen Social Security Numbers (SSNs) to game the system and receive health care benefits. Senate Finance Committee Professional Staff Members Tom Klouda and Thomas Barthold decisively dismissed Grassley’s illegitimate concerns:
KLOUDA: We checked to see if there is a concern with identity theft in some of our other health care programs. And we contacted the National Association of Medicaid Fraud units. And they mentioned that there is a minor degree of identity theft in Medicaid, but it’s very small. It’s not one of their main concerns in terms of Medicaid fraud issues…
Some people that we’ve talked to who are experts in identity theft just think that’s unlikely that people would want to enter the system that way and have to maintain the fraud.
GRASSLEY: You know, one instance that you don’t cover is the fact that if you steal a Social Security Number and you have that number you can write and get income information based upon that number…
BARTHOLD: I just want to point out that the IRS would not pay a credit to the same person twice. So if I were to luck out and find someone who is eligible for the credit, and steal their identity, the IRS would only pay that credit once.
Earlier that day, Grassley slammed Baucus’ proposed health care plan for not containing REAL ID requirements or provisions that would force the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Social Security Administration to share information to prevent undocumented immigrants with stolen SSNs from collecting benefits. He also feared that undocumented immigrants might be infiltrating Indian tribes and posing as Native Americans, who will be subject to less stringent verification requirements.
However, Real ID Act’s requirements don’t kick in until 2017 if it’s not repealed at the state or federal-level before then and the IRS is charged with “zealous[ly] protect[ing]” basic confidentiality protections that require that tax returns and tax return information be held in strictest confidence. Rather than wasting time going into the weeds with Grassley, Klouda and Barthold simply pointed out that he should really stop fretting about undocumented immigrants in the first place as it’s not worth stalling health care reform over wedge-issues that aren’t grounded in reality.