SSA advances e-services offerings

The Social Security Administration on Tuesday announced its latest foray into electronic services. Medicare recipients now will be able to use a form at SSA's Web site (www.ssa.gov) to apply for a replacement card online.

Applicants' requests will be forwarded every day to the Health Care Financing Administration, which administers the health care program for the elderly.

"We are pleased to partner with the HCFA to make obtaining a replacement Medicare card easy and convenient for beneficiaries," said William Halter, SSA's deputy commissioner.

The new service comes not a moment too soon. The number of senior citizens is expected to double to about 76 million by 2030 as the baby boom generation ages.

And more e-services are on the way from Social Security, according to Halter, who spoke Monday at the E-Gov 2000 conference and exposition in Washington, D.C.

* In a few months, SSA will provide an online application for filing for retirement benefits. The agency currently processes more than 3 million such applications per year and expects the number of applicants filing online to grow as rapidly as the Internal Revenue Service's online tax filing option has grown.

* Other plans call for SSA's business partners, doctors and hospitals to be able to file reports online.

* SSA is involved in a joint effort with business partners to test a number of other Internet technologies over the next 90 days that could enhance customer service, including instant messaging, secure e-mail and voice over IP.

Johnston is a reporter for IDG News Service.

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