The New Medicare Card: Avoid Medicare Fraud

March 30, 2018 : Jackie Perlman

A big change is coming for Medicare beneficiaries: they will receive a new Medicare card.

What’s so special about the new Medicare Card?

Until now, the Medicare claim number displayed on the enrollee’s Medicare card was his or her Social Security Number. That is about to change. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will soon begin mailing new Medicare cards with new identifying numbers to avoid Medicare fraud.

Initial mailings from April to June of 2018 will go to enrollees in Alaska, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington D.C., and West Virginia, as well as American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. After June of 2018, mailings will be made in sequence following CMS’s new Medicare card mailing strategy. Mailings will be completed by June of 2019.

 

Why did they put SSNs on Medicare cards to begin with?

It does indeed seem odd in today’s world that a federal agency would issue cards that display SSNs. Although the idea of stealing another person’s identity had been around long before the launch of Medicare in 1966, the potential danger of fraudsters stealing SSNs to commit medical, tax, or financial related identity theft crimes was not clearly obvious back then. To combat identity theft risk, CMS is required to remove SSNs from all Medicare cards by April of 2019. Instead of an SSN, each new Medicare card will have a unique 11-digit alpha-numeric claim number.

 

What do Medicare enrollees need to do?

Not much (but read below about what they do not have to do). The mailings will be automatic. Enrollees should make sure their correct address is on file with the Social Security Administration and, if not, visit “My Account” on SSA.gov or stop by a Social Security office to change it. The new card should be carried and used immediately, and the old card should be shredded – not tossed! Note that Medicare Advantage enrollees will continue to use their Plan ID cards, but may be asked to show their new Medicare cards too. See Your Medicare Card on Medicare.gov.

 

Now for the bad news: the medicare card scam.

Perhaps it’s a last-ditch effort to steal SSNs while they’re still available or to otherwise exploit what may seem to be a ready target. No matter. Medicare scam stories are abound on the internet about scammers’ attempts to trick Medicare enrollees into providing personal information or to swindle them in some way. While the extent of the problem isn’t known, it’s clear that the aforementioned fraudsters haven’t gone away.

 

What to do if contacted by a medicare fraud scammer.

Medicare enrollees’ best defense is to understand what they do not have to do to obtain a card. They do not have to pay a fee or complete an application. They do not have to “just verify” their SSNs or other personal information, either on the phone, or online, or by mail. They do not have to obtain any new insurance or worry that their current coverage will be compromised, regardless of what a scammer insists or threatens.

If contacted by a scammer, hang up and call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

 

Handle with care.

Even though the new Medicare cards do not have SSNs, cardholders should still be careful with them, as they would with a credit card, driver’s license, or other important document. If in doubt about why someone needs the new number, cardholders should not routinely give them out. Doctors, pharmacists, other health providers and facilities, and insurers will legitimately ask for the new Medicare number.

 

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Jackie Perlman

Jackie Perlman

Jackie Perlman is a principal tax research analyst within The Tax Institute at H&R Block.