(Family Features) Millions of people with Medicare will receive new, more secure Medicare cards in the mail in 2018. The new cards replace Social Security Number-based Medicare numbers with a new, unique, personalized Medicare Number, known as the Medicare Beneficiary Identifier. Each person with Medicare will have his or her own number. The cards will be mailed automatically, free of charge, and there will be no changes to Medicare users’ current benefits.
The new Medicare cards no longer contain a person’s Social Security number, but rather a unique, randomly-assigned Medicare number that protects people’s identity, helps reduce fraud and offers better safeguards of important health and financial information. Removing Social Security Numbers from Medicare cards is one of the ways the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is helping to protect the identities of people with Medicare. The unique Medicare Number not only increases protections from fraud for people with Medicare, it also makes it harder for criminals to use Social Security Numbers to falsely bill Medicare for care services and benefits that were never performed.
CMS is mailing the new Medicare cards in geographic waves. This means people with Medicare may not get their new card at the same time as their friends or neighbors. People with Medicare and their caregivers can visit medicare.gov/newcard to find out when cards will be mailed to their areas. They can also sign up for email notifications about the card-mailing and check the card-mailing status in their states. As soon as people receive their new Medicare cards, they should safely and securely destroy their old Medicare cards and start using their new cards right away.
In addition to using the new cards, consider these tips for further protecting yourself from identity theft:
Protect the New Card Number
People with Medicare should guard their new card like it is a credit card and only give their Medicare Number to people they know should have it. Medicare, or someone representing Medicare, will never contact people with Medicare to ask for their Medicare Number or other personal information unless they have been given specific permission in advance.
Look Out for Scams
As the new Medicare cards are mailed, be on the lookout for scams.
- Don’t pay for your new card. It’s free. If anyone calls and says you need to pay for it, that’s a scam.
- Don’t give personal information to get your card. If someone calls claiming to be from Medicare asking for your Social Security Number or bank information, hang up. Medicare will never ask you to give personal information to get your new number and card.
- Guard your card. When you get your new card, safeguard it like you would health insurance or credit cards. While removing the Social Security Number cuts down on many types of identity theft, you’ll still want to protect your new card because identity thieves could use it to receive medical services.
The 4 R’s of Fighting Fraud
It is important to remember that you are the first line of defense in protecting yourself against Medicare fraud, and should make a habit of monitoring online accounts. Remember the four R’s for fighting fraud:
- Record doctors’ appointments and services
- Review claims for any you don’t recognize
- Report suspected fraud to CMS by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)
- Remember to protect your Medicare Number
10 Things to Remember About New Medicare Cards
Make note of these facts to help ensure a smooth transition to your new card.
1. Your card will have a new Medicare Number that’s unique to you, instead of your Social Security Number. This can help protect your identity and keep your personal information more secure.
2. Your card will automatically come to you at no cost. You don’t need to do anything as long as your address is up-to-date. If you need to update your address, visit socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
3. You can find out when your card is mailing by signing up for email notifications at Medicare.gov/NewCard.
4. Your Medicare coverage and benefits will stay the same.
5. Mailing takes time, and Medicare will mail the new cards by April 2019. Your card may arrive at a different time than your friend’s or neighbor’s.
6. Once you get your new Medicare card, destroy your old Medicare card and start using your new one right away. Rather than simply throwing the old card away, shred it or cut it into small pieces.
7. Your card will be paper and not laminated, which makes it easier for many providers to use and copy for their records.
8. If you’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO), your Medicare Advantage Plan ID card is your main card for Medicare. You should still keep and use it whenever you need care. However, you also may be asked to show your new Medicare card, so you should carry this card, too.
9. Doctors, other health care providers and facilities know your new card is coming and will ask for your new Medicare card when you need care, so carry it with you.
10. Only give your new Medicare Number to doctors, pharmacists, other health care providers, your insurers or people you trust to work with Medicare on your behalf. Treat your Medicare Number like you treat your credit card numbers. Medicare will never contact you uninvited to ask for personal information.