New Medicare Cards Fight Fraud
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is replacing the current Medicare cards with new cards. CMS is issuing the new cards in response to recommendations from the General Accountability Office, Medicare beneficiaries and advocacy groups. The new cards don’t use or display a beneficiary’s Social Security number. This protects beneficiaries who in the past have been unnecessarily exposed to fraud by the sharing of their personal information. The newly issued cards are also intended to protect taxpayer dollars because it will make it harder to bill Medicare for services that were never performed.
In place of the Social Security number, the new cards will use a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) number that will be uniquely generated for each person. The MBI will use a random combination of numbers and capital letters. To avoid confusion between capital letters and numbers, the letters S, L, O, I, B and Z are not being used.
With more than 59 million beneficiary cards to replace, the new cards are being distributed over the course of a year.
What do beneficiaries need to do?
The new cards will be automatically sent on a rolling basis between April 2018 and April of 2019. You will not receive any calls or requests from Medicare for information. If Medicare has your current address, you don’t need to do anything. However, it’s important to call Medicare if you need to update your address so that you will receive your card promptly. You can contact Medicare at 1.800.633.4227 (TTY users, call 1.877.486.2048), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also sign up to receive an email notification about when to expect your card in the mail by visiting Medicare.gov/NewCard.
Once your new card arrives, you will need to dispose of your old one by cutting it up so that your Social Security number is destroyed. Your Medicare coverage and benefits will remain the same and there are no extra steps required by you to activate your card.
A transition period will be in effect through December 31, 2019, during which healthcare providers will accept both Medicare cards – the older plastic one, which includes your Social Security number, and the new paper version that includes your new MBI number.
Protect yourself from scammers and identity theft
A Medicare representative will never contact you by phone unless you have left a message requesting a callback. The representative will never ask you to provide personal information.
If someone calls you or sends an email asking for information or money they say is required for you to obtain your new Medicare card, you should immediately hang up and call Medicare at the numbers provided above. You can also report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by calling 1.877.438.4338 (TTY users, call 1.866.653.4261).
At the end of the day it’s all about your protection. So be on the lookout for your new card and don’t respond to anyone asking for your information or trying to sell you what they say is the new Medicare card. Be informed. Be alert. Be protected.