Updated October 9, 2017
What You Need to Know about the New Medicare Cards
On May 30, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released information on the new Medicare cards that would be sent out beginning next year. Department of Justice statistics indicate that between 2012 and 2014, identity theft crimes rose from affecting 2.1 million Americans to 2.6 million people. Identify theft, which can happen when criminals steal valuable personal information, such as social security numbers, can have far-reaching effects. Among these are damage to personal finances, inaccurate medical records, false claims and poor credit ratings.
In an effort to thwart fraud, abuse and identity theft – common and rampant problems in the Medicare program – the CMS is issuing new cards that will no longer feature beneficiaries’ social security numbers.
A social security number provides access to a multitude of personal information, which gives hackers and thieves the opportunity to commit crimes of identity theft. Old Medicare cards featured members’ social security numbers, allowing criminals easy access to this information when the cards were sent via mail or presented at places like physicians’ offices, pharmacies or other provider agencies.
Congress convinced lawmakers that a change was needed to protect cardholders from identity theft. A section of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, signed by former President Obama in 2015, moved to eliminate social security numbers from Medicare cards. The government plans to spend $320 million to put the change into effect. New Medicare cards are being funded by payroll taxes and beneficiary premiums.
The New Cards
According to the CMS, the government plans to begin mailing new cards to Medicare recipients in April 2018. All beneficiaries should receive the updated cards by April 2019. The 12-month period will also allow healthcare providers to prepare for the switch and make any necessary changes to their systems.
Your current card includes your name, the effective date of coverage and information about your current program. When your provider submits a claim, your social security number is used as the claim number. These features will change once the new card arrives.
Your new card will include a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) containing 11 randomized characters, which will be made up of both numbers and capital letters. Don’t worry about letters like “O” and the number “0.” Some letters that might be misidentified as numbers will not be used to eliminate confusion.
Because the MBI will be generated at random, you also won’t need to worry about it being associated with any other piece of sensitive information, like your birthdate. If you have a Medicare card already, keep using it. Your current card is still valid until you receive the new card next spring. Once you get the new card, the CMS advises destroying the old card to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.
You don’t need to do anything to get the new card or replace your old one when the new one comes. The process is automatic, and updated Medicare cards are being issued free of charge. The card change will in no way alter the status of your current benefits.
Medicare is issuing new cards to cut down on fraud, but scammers continually devise new tactics to wreak havoc on the lives of the elderly. As a beneficiary, you might be contacted by people over the phone or over the internet posing as government agencies requiring personal information. Some of the more common tactics used include:
- Requesting that cardholders confirm or verify their Medicare or social security information. Criminals often pretend an error was made. They insist they need the personal information to make the correction and to issue a new card;
- Convincing Medicare beneficiaries that there is a fee for obtaining a new card and their personal information is required; and
- Threatening cardholders with a cancellation of health benefits if they do not cooperate by providing the requested information.
Don’t give out personal information, such as your social security number or the new Medicare number once it’s assigned, to a phone or internet request. If you have questions or suspicions about any communication that you receive, contact your Medicare company (if you have Medicare Advantage) or Medicare directly at 1-800-633-4277.
Updated October 31, 2016
Original Medicare was created as a health insurance program designed to ensure quality healthcare and prescription drug coverage for qualified recipients of the United States.
Who can apply for a Medicare card?
To qualify for any type of federal Medicare coverage plan, you must be a United States citizen or legal United States resident of five years or more and of at least 65 years of age. You are also eligible to receive Medicare benefits if you are a disabled (U.S. citizen) person of any age, who is:
- Receiving Social Security benefits
- Railroad Retirement Board benefits
- Have been diagnosed with end-stage renal disease (ESRD)
The majority of people qualify for Part A of Medicare automatically (from working and paying into Social Security). Part B coverage requires you pay a premium for each month’s coverage and has optional plans available. Prescription Drug plan coverage is also an option, with various alternative plans available to choose from.
Steps to apply for a Medicare card
Step 1. Begin by going to the Social Security website and apply online by clicking on “Medicare,” located at the top of the page headings (topics to choose from). A new page will appear, and you will then click the “Apply for Medicare Benefits” link.
Step 2. On the “Apply for Medicare Benefits” page, you will be asked if you are applying for yourself or another. Fill in the bubble that is appropriate for your application purpose (self or other). Then, click the “Privacy Act Statement,” after reading the statement click the “Apply for Benefits” icon, to begin the question portion of your application process.
Step 3. Answer the questions posed, such as; your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, income, employment history, medical history, disabilities and your income.
Step 4. Review the information that you have given and then verify that it is correct on the last page of the application. Then, click on the “Submit” icon.
Typically, that is all there is to it; no further information is required. In approximately 30 days or so, you should be receiving your Medicare card by mail. Check the information on your card for accuracy.
How do I replace my Medicare card?
Before applying for a replacement card for a lost or stolen Medicare card, be certain to have your personal information ready. This includes your name, address, telephone and Social Security numbers, date and place of birth and your mother’s maiden name.
You can then contact your local Social Security Office, either in person or by phone and they will assist you in obtaining a new card. Or, you may choose to call the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) at (800) MEDICARE (633-4227) for assistance in applying for a replacement card. In either application site or location, it will take about 30 days for you to receive your new replacement card by United States mail.
What your Medicare card should contain
When you receive your Medicare card, there a few things you should do right away. The first of which is to review the information on the card for its accuracy.
Check to see that your name is spelled correctly. Your name is located under “beneficiary” and has a claim number below it. The claim number should be the same as your Social Security number, with a letter or letters behind it. Make certain the numbers are the same as your Social Security number.
Moving down to the middle of the card, you will find a description of the coverage you are eligible to receive. Be certain the type of coverage you signed up for is what appears on the card (it is indicated by a letter). Part A is the portion of Medicare that provides coverage for hospital stays, home healthcare and hospice. Part B covers doctor visits and outpatient services and care.
If there is any incorrect information on your card, or you have a question or questions regarding your coverage or card information contained on it, there is a toll-free number located on the top portion of your Medicare card. This is the number for you to contact a Medicare Health Insurance representative. Call Medicare Health Insurance at (800) Medicare (633-4227).
And finally, at the bottom of the card will be a signature line. If all the information on your card is correct, be certain to sign your name on the signature line indicated.
What your Medicare card looks like
Once you have been deemed qualified to receive Medicare benefits, you will be issued a red, white and blue (paper) card, identifying you as a Medicare beneficiary. The card contains sensitive personal information on it. The information identifies you by name and contains your Social Security number, followed by a letter (s) that delineates what type of coverage you have under the Medicare program. It will also show if you have coverage for Medicare Part A, Medicare Part B, etc. And, your signature will be shown at the bottom of the card.
What the letters on the Medicare card signify
The letter A follows the Medicare claim number, which is also your Social Security number. This signifies that you have worked and made payments into Social Security for the required number of credits to receive Medicare benefits, typically about 10 years.
Information regarding Medicare cards for a disabled person or spouse
If you are a disabled person, the letters HA will appear after your Social Security number. If you are married to a disabled person, you are entitled to Medicare benefits, as well; the letters HB will come after your Social Security number. If your disabled spouse is deceased, then the letter W is used to indicate widowed or widower status.
Government employees and Medicare
A government employee who is not receiving Social Security and who qualifies to receive Medicare will have the letters TA after their Social Security number.
Spousal beneficiaries and Medicare
If you have never worked, you will still qualify for Medicare, provided that your spouse has met the requirements to receive Medicare benefits. In this case, the letter B will follow your Social Security number.
Widows or widower beneficiaries
If you are filing for Medicare under your spouse’s work credits, and they are deceased, the letter D will follow your Social Security number.
Protect your Medicare card
It is very important to note that your Medicare card should be carefully guarded. Just as you would protect a credit card or your Social Security card, you should guard your Medicare card in the same fashion, as it contains sensitive information. In the wrong hands, such information as your name, signature and Social Security number could be copied or stolen. It could then be used to steal your identity (identity theft) or commit Medicare fraud. Therefore, only provide your Medicare card or information to hospitals and your direct health care providers.