Senator implores officials to act on stalled ID-theft bill
June 6, 2006
WASHINGTON, D.C. – After almost a year of delays, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is imploring federal officials and Senate leadership to endorse and enact legislation to combat the growing problem of identity theft.
Nelson’s bipartisan bill, the Identity Theft Protection Act, unanimously was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee last July. But Senate Republican leaders have blocked a vote by the full Senate.
Nelson’s stepped-up effort to get a floor vote on bill comes in the wake of last week’s data breach by a government contractor that lost personal medical and other information on 17,000 people enrolled in Medicare.
More specifically, Nelson yesterday wrote to the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, not only questioning how the recent data breach occurred, but also asking the top official there to publicly endorse the ID-theft bill. The Florida Democrat also sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist requesting that the full Senate be allowed to take immediate action on the stalled legislation.
Nelson, along with Republican Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon, has introduced the ID-theft legislation aimed at stopping data breaches by requiring all companies – including those like the one handling Medicare beneficiaries’ sensitive personal information – to safeguard data and notify consumers if anything is lost or stolen.
“I request that you endorse [ the legislation ] and help seek its passage by Congress as soon as possible,” Nelson wrote in a letter yesterday to Mark McClellan, the administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Washington, D.C. Last week, it was disclosed that an employee of a private insurance company working for the centers called up information on the 17,000 Medicare beneficiaries, and then failed to delete the information from a hotel computer.
Identity theft resulting from data breaches has plagued over 10 million Americans and costs the country an estimated $50 billion dollars yearly, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Since the Smith-Nelson bill was approved by the Commerce panel, some 234,000 Americans have become ID-theft victims, based on FTC estimates.