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Friday July 21, 2017

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

New Medicare Cards Debut Next Year

I just received my Medicare card in the mail and was surprised to see that the ID number is the same as my Social Security number. I know it's a bad idea to carry around anything that displays my Social Security number because it makes me vulnerable to identity theft. Wasn't the government supposed to stop putting Social Security numbers on Medicare cards?

Many people who are new to Medicare are surprised to learn that the ID number on their Medicare card is identical to their Social Security number (SSN). After all, we're constantly warned not to carry our SSN around with us, because lost or stolen SSN information could result in identity theft.

But what should you do when the Medicare card itself tells you to carry it with you so that you can present it to administrative staff at a doctor's office or hospital? Here are some tips and information that you can use to protect yourself.

New Medicare Cards


For starters, you'll be happy to know that the government is in the process of removing SSNs from Medicare cards. But with 58 million beneficiaries, it is a huge undertaking that will be implemented gradually. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will start sending the new cards in April 2018, but it will take until December 2019 for SSNs to be removed from all cards.

Under the new system, a randomly generated 11-character Medicare Beneficiary Identifier will replace the SSN-based health claim number on your new Medicare card, but your Medicare benefits will not change.

You will receive information in 2018 letting you know about the new Medicare card with an explanation of how to use the new card and what to do with your old one. You can start using your new Medicare card and number as soon as you receive it. There will likely be a transition period in 2018 and 2019 when you can use either the old card or the new card.

Protect Your Identity


Until your new Medicare card is issued, here is what you can do to protect your SSN on your current card. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a national consumer resource on identity theft, recommends that you carry your Medicare card only when you visit a health care provider for the first time so the provider can make a copy for their files. Otherwise, make a photocopy of your card and cut it down to wallet size. Then take a black marker and black out the last four digits of your SSN and carry that with you instead.

If your Medicare card does happen to get lost or stolen, you can replace it by calling the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 or by contacting your local Social Security office. You can also request a card online at SSA.gov/MyAccount. Your card will arrive in the mail in about 30 days.

If your Medicare card containing your SSN gets lost or stolen, you will need to keep an eye out for Medicare fraud. You can do this by checking your quarterly Medicare summary notices for services or supplies you did not receive. You can also check your Medicare claims online at MyMedicare.gov (you'll need to create an account first) or by calling Medicare at 800-633-4227. If you spot anything suspicious or incorrect, call the Inspector General's fraud hotline at 800-447-8477.

Also, watch for other signs of identity theft. For example, if someone uses your Social Security number to obtain credit, loans, telephone accounts or other goods and services, report it immediately to the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov (or 877-438-4338). This site will also give you specific steps you will need to take if your identity gets stolen.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published July 7, 2017
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