Thu, Feb 1, 2018 at 04:30 PM
New cards aimed at reducing identity theft among seniors.
Medicare is about to get a lot safer for the 57 million people who use the federal insurance program for Americans age 65 and over.
Until now, Medicare cards had Social Security numbers printed boldly on the front. Because of the danger from identity theft and fraud, redesigned Medicare cards will be mailed out starting in April with a new number for use only with Medicare coverage.
Tragically, personal identity theft affects a large and growing number of seniors. People age 65 or older are increasingly the victims of this type of crime. Incidents among seniors increased to 2.6 million from 2.1 million between 2012 and 2014, according to the most current statistics from the Department of Justice. Identity theft can take not only an emotional toll on those who experience it, but also a financial one: two-thirds of all identity theft victims reported a direct financial loss. It can also disrupt lives, damage credit ratings and result in inaccuracies in medical records and costly false claims.
The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 required Medicare to remove Social Security Numbers from all Medicare cards by April 2019. Replacing the number better protects:
• Private health care and financial information.
• Federal health care benefit and service payments.
New Medicare cards will be mailed out in phases by geographic location. There also will be a 21-month transition period where providers will be able to use either the new or the old card. The transition period will begin April 1, 2018 and run through December 31, 2019.
The new number is:
• 11-characters in length
• Made up only of numbers and uppercase letters (no special characters)
Each one is unique, randomly generated and the characters are "non-intelligent," which means they don't have any hidden or special meaning.
Here’s how you can get ready:
• Make sure your mailing address is up to date. If it needs to be corrected, contact Social Security at ssa.gov/myaccount or 1-800-772-1213. TTY users can call 1-800-325-0778.
• Beware of anyone who contacts you about your new Medicare card. The Social Security Administration will never ask for personal or private information to provide your new Medicare number and card.
• Understand that mailing everyone a new card will take some time. Your card might arrive at a different time than your friend’s or neighbor’s.
Once beneficiaries get their new Medicare cards, they can be used to enroll in a Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage health plan, or a Part D drug plan. Those Medicare beneficiaries who do choose to enroll in Medicare health and/or drug plans will still also get an insurance card from their plan providers. As always, while beneficiaries are enrolled in health and/or drug plans, they should use the cards from those plans when they get health care and/or prescriptions.
Beneficiaries will be instructed to safely and securely destroy their current Medicare cards and keep the new number confidential. Issuance of the new card will not change the benefits a Medicare beneficiary receives.