In this time of identify theft and consumer scams, the Social Security administration has determined to issue new Medicare cards. Everyone’s current Medicare card has an account number which includes a Social Security number. The new card will have a unique identity number (called a “Health Insurance Claim Number”) that’s up to 11 digits long and is unrelated to the Social Security number. The new card is called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier Card.
This is a massive undertaking. In 2015, the Kaiser Foundation estimated that there were 55.5 million Medicare recipients, including 2.5 million in Pennsylvania. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimates that at the end of 2017, there were approximately 58.5 million Medicare recipients. As baby boomers age into the Medicare category, there will be substantially more.
According to government’s time table, new Medicare cards will be sent out beginning in April. Cards will be sent to all the beneficiaries in particular states in waves. The first wave includes Pennsylvania. If the administration meets its deadline, Pennsylvanians will begin to receive new Medicare cards next month.
All Medicare recipients should make certain that their mailing address for Medicare purposes is current. Otherwise, the card may go to the wrong address and the recipient may be denied service until the problem can be straightened out. For beneficiaries with an online account, an address can be confirmed and/or updated at the Social Security website, www.ssa.gov/myaccount. Otherwise, beneficiaries may call the national Social Security hotline at 800-772-1213. The local offices are also equipped to help with this.
This is the only action you will need to take. The new card is supposed to be delivered automatically.
The Federal Trade Commission predicts that there will be opportunities for scam as this process begins.
First, everyone needs to know that there will never be a charge for a new Medicare card. The card is free and will be sent automatically. So any program claiming to assist in this process for a fee is charging for a service that is probably unnecessary.
Moreover, if a so-called service claims to need your user name and password to help you, it may attempting to hijack your Social Security account. Once they have access to your account, they can change your mailing address to their own, re-designate an account you do not have access to for payments, and change your password so you are precluded from access.
Second, if someone calls claiming to be from Medicare, the Social Security administration or any other government agency seeking information including Social Security numbers and/or bank information, it is almost certainly a scam. Medicare will never call to ask for personal information in order to get a new card.
Finally, recipients should guard their cards. While removing the Social Security number cuts down on many types of identity theft, there are other potential situations which can cause liability. For example, someone might obtain medical care using a stolen Medicare card and cause improper charges to be placed on your account.
When you get your new card, be sure to destroy the old card. Do not just toss it in the trash since there is a Social Security number attached to it.
If you have a separate Medicare Advantage card or a Medicare supplement insurance card, these need to be retained because they are still necessary for treatment.
Amos Goodall is an attorney with Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchak in State College.