Medicare beneficiaries have complained for years about having their Social Security number on Medicare cards. Their concerns are finally being addressed, as the familiar red, white and blue Medicare card finally gets a makeover after half a century.
Starting in April, the government will begin the monumental task of mailing out new Medicare cards to every single person on Medicare—that’s 57.7 million Medicare beneficiaries. The new cards will no longer contain your Social Security number, something that was a matter of growing concern in an age of pervasive identity theft. Instead, the new Medicare cards will contain a combination of randomly generated numbers and letters that will become your new unique Medicare Number.
It is expected that the new Medicare cards will not only help to lessen seniors’ exposure to financial identity theft, but will also reduce fraud and help protect taxpayers from an explosion in medical identity theft, where various scams have been used to bilk the Medicare system.
What changes will the new Medicare card have?
- While the new cards will still retain the familiar red, white and blue color, instead of your nine digit Social Security number followed by a letter, the new cards will contain a combination of randomly generated numbers and uppercase letters and be 11-characters in length.
- A person’s gender will no longer be shown.
- The cards will now be bilingual in English and Spanish, making them somewhat harder to read.
- The signature line will be removed
Here is a sample of what the new cards will look like:
When will my new Medicare card arrive?
Current Medicare beneficiaries will start to receive their new Medicare cards beginning in April of this year. Cards will be mailed out by state. The first wave of mailings will go to the mid-Atlantic states of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia.
All 57.7 million Medicare beneficiaries are required by law to have their new Medicare cards by April of 2019.
Be aware that mailing everyone a new card will take some time. Your neighbor or friend may receive a card before you do.
What must I do to get the new Medicare card?
Usually, you won’t need to do anything. A new card will be mailed to you automatically by April 2019.
However, if your address has changed, be sure to notify Social Security of your new address. Social Security will notify Medicare and Medicare will mail your new card to your correct address. If you have received any mailings from Social Security or Medicare at your current address in the last year, then they have your correct address.
If you want to update your current address or check if Social Security has your correct address, the easiest way to do so is by going to “My Account” through the Social Security’s website. If you don’t have an account set up already, simply create one online. The second way to change or verify your address is by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm Monday through Friday. Wait times are usually longest on Mondays and Tuesdays, so its best to call Wednesday through Friday.
Will the new Medicare card change my Medicare benefits
No, Medicare benefits will not change because of the new card.
What should I do with my old Medicare card once I receive my new card?
The official recommendation from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) states that you should destroy your old card and begin using your new card immediately. My personal recommendation, however, is just slightly different: Start carrying and using your new Medicare card, but don’t destroy your old one, just yet.
Place your old card in a small, clear plastic baggie with note that it’s the old card and keep it in a safe place at home. Your old card can serve as insurance in case there are unexpected glitches in the computer systems used by the government and your doctor or hospital as they process your claims.
After all—that’s exactly what happened when Obamacare was introduced. Everyone remembers massive computer problems with the government-run exchanges when Obamacare was introduced. But few people realize that two of the largest insurance carriers in Colorado–Anthem and Kaiser—also had major computer problems the first year that Obamacare was introduced.
Both the old and new cards will theoretically work until January 1, 2020 rolls around. At that point the old Medicare cards will no longer be accepted by the government and you are safe to destroy your old Medicare card. (Unless, you are sentimental about them…in which case you can frame them and keep as a memento!)
Watch out for scams. Four things you must NOT do:
CMS is warning consumers to be on the lookout for scams related to the rollout of the new Medicare cards. Here are four things you should never do:
1. Never share your Medicare number or other personal information with anyone who contacts you by phone, email, or approaches you in person, unless you’ve given them permission in advance. If they claims to be from Medicare—do not believe them as Medicare will never call you for information, unless you had first initiated contact with them first.
2. Never pay anyone to get a Medicare card. Medicare cards are always free. Even if you lose your card and need a replacement, all you need to do is call Medicare for a free replacement card.
3. Do not participate in surveys as this is another trick to get some of your personal information.
4. Don’t fall for any schemes to help you enroll in a Medicare plan from people you don’t know, early-bird discounts to get a Medicare card, limited time offers, or offers of free medical services.
REMEMBER: If someone contacts you with any of the above tricks, or threatens to cancel your Medicare health benefits if you don’t share your personal information, hang up and call Medicare at 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227).
If you suspect identity theft, or feel like you did give personal information to someone you shouldn’t have, contact the Federal Trade Commission.
Is it ever appropriate to give out my Medicare card and other personal information?
Medicare, or someone representing Medicare, will only call and ask for personal information in these situations:
- A Medicare health or drug plan (for example, a Medicare Advantage plan) can call you if you’re already a member of the plan. The agent or broker who helped you join can also call you.
- A customer service representative from 1-800-MEDICARE can call you if you had first called them and left a message, or if a Medicare worker told you that someone would call you back.
Only give personal information like your Medicare number to doctors, insurers acting on your behalf—such as your insurance agent or broker, or trusted people in the community who work with Medicare like your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). In Larimer and Weld Counties that would be the Aspen Club which is run by UC Health.
Want more information?
If you would like more information about the new Medicare cards or any other Medicare or Medicare insurance topic, please call me at 970-224-5500 or email me through the Contact Us form on this website. All of my services are free to you. Insurance companies pay me, you don’t.