New Medicare cards are coming in April
Beware new scams
April 1, 2018
Your new Medicare ID card will be arriving the old-fashioned way, via the US Postal Service. If you barely glance at your mail before you throw it in the garbage because of a deluge of junk mail, be on the lookout for this one.
Starting in April and continuing for a year, Medicare will be sending out new ID cards to its 55 million beneficiaries. This will be the first replacement of the cards since Medicare started in 1965. The cards have only one purpose – to help prevent identity fraud. The old cards will be valid for another year, but health care providers must change their records. To avoid confusion, it is important to notify all your health providers when you receive the new number.
Until now, the number on the current Medicare ID card (called a Health Insurance Claim Number or HICN) is the person’s Social Security number. This number is used not only by the Social Security Administration but also by state Medicaid agencies, health care providers, health plans and the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board.
If someone else gets hold of your number it can open you up to all kinds of identity fraud, and misuse. Congress finally changed the law in 2015 which required the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) to replace the old numbers with new ones and give them a new name: Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI).
The new Medicare cards will be rolled out over the next year and will go to all Medicare beneficiaries. But there is a huge exception – people who are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan (like an HMO or PPO) will continue to use the plan’s ID card as their main card for Medicare. Medicare Advantage companies already have a unique ID number that is not your Social Security number, something that was changed years ago. Also, Medicare prescription drug plans will continue to assign and use their own cards.
The new Medicare MBI numbers will have 11 digits and will be assigned randomly so they will not have any hidden or special coding or meaning. They will combine single digit numbers and upper case letters, and will be printed on regular-weight paper. They will be a little smaller than the old ones – about the size of a credit card. They do not indicate gender.
People in the Middle Atlantic states (Delaware and Maryland) and western states like California and Oregon will get them first. After June, CMS will roll out mailings to five more geographic regions. People in Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Puerto Rico, and a few other states will be the last to receive the new MBIs. You can check the government’s Medicare.gov website for the schedule.
New cards bring on new scams
While the new Medicare ID numbers were set up to prevent ID fraud, so far it’s had the opposite result. So here are seven key pointers so you don’t find yourself a victim of fraud:
Expect more efforts by scammers to mislead Medicare beneficiaries as the new cards start rolling out.
There is absolutely no charge for the new card; remember this is free and comes directly from Medicare.
Anyone who calls saying they are calling from Medicare is not telling the truth. Medicare will not make uninvited calls to beneficiaries.
The new card provides the exact same benefits as the old one. Don’t get talked into thinking changes are being made.
The new Medicare card is valuable so keep it in a safe place and don’t give it to anyone except your health care providers. Unfortunately, many ID thefts are carried out by friends and family members who have “borrowed” someone’s Medicare ID card. Also remember that your old card has your Social Security number on it, so be sure to put it away somewhere safe as well.
If you think you’ve been a victim of medical identity fraud, the Federal Trade Commission has information about what to do at their website, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0171-medical-identity-theft.
Finally, if you need to update your address, go to https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount or call 1-800-772-1213.