Have you heard the news? A new Medicare card is on the horizon! With consumer security and fraud protection as the top priority, the new Medicare cards will no longer feature the Social Security numbers (SSNs) of beneficiaries.
“Older adults are targeted by fraud artists, who use their Social Security numbers to get loans and credit cards,” said Amy E. Nofziger, Manager of the Fraud Prevention Program at AARP.
Why New Medicare Cards Are Needed
Although it has been a standard practice by private and public agencies to use SSNs as a unique identifier for individuals, many states – including California, Colorado, Illinois and Texas – have restricted the printing of SSNs on ID cards required to access products or services.
The Department of Health and Human Services has been an advocate for removing SSNs from Medicare cards for more than a decade, but the level of effort and projected cost to implement this has been a roadblock. With a stolen Social Security number, identity thieves are open to commit any number of financial crimes in the victim’s name, or may steal money from the victim. A thief could potentially go as far as to target the victim’s Social Security benefits.
Fortunately for Medicare beneficiaries, last April President Obama signed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015. Within this bill is a provision that states Social Security account numbers must not be “displayed, coded or embedded on the Medicare card.”
When Will the New Medicare Cards Arrive?
MACRA mandates that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) services remove SSNs from all Medicare cards by April 2019. Distribution of new Medicare cards to beneficiaries will begin no earlier than April 2018.
While the change seems like an easy process, it’s important to note that the Social Security Administration in partnership with Medicare has used the Social Security number as beneficiaries’ Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) for years.
To make the new Medicare card transition as smooth as possible, Medicare and their partner organizations must enable their systems to recognize the new randomly-assigned Medicare Beneficiary Identifiers (MBI). It was expected that the implementation of this process and distribution to beneficiaries would take considerable time, which explains the gap between Obama’s 2015 mandate and the estimated completion date of April 2019.
Protecting Yourself While You Wait
A safer, more secure Medicare card is well worth the wait with the rise in acts of fraud against the elderly population. Here are some recommendations to reduce your risk of identity theft until the new Medicare card arrives:
- Do not carry your original Medicare card in your wallet.
Try this alternative way to carry your Medicare information:
- Make a photocopy of the front and back sides of your Medicare card.
- Block out all but the last four digits of your Social Security number.
- Place your original Medicare card in a secure location in your home or office.
- Carry the photocopy version in your wallet instead.
With this safety precaution, your Social Security number would not be exposed if your wallet were to be lost or stolen. However, if your Medicare card is lost, stolen or damaged, you can ask Social Security to replace it. Visit Medicare.gov for more information.