by Seema Verma, CMS Administrator. This post originally appeared on the CMS blog.
To read this article in Spanish, click here.
When you get your new Medicare card in the mail, keep it safe! Guard your card to prevent fraud.
As you may have heard, or perhaps you’ve seen a recent TV commercial, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will soon be issuing every Medicare beneficiary a new Medicare Card, without Social Security Numbers, to prevent fraud, fight identity theft, and keep taxpayer dollars safe, and to help ensure that we always put the needs of patients first.
It’s unfortunate that criminals are increasingly targeting people age 65 or older for medical identity theft, including when someone illegally uses another person’s Medicare number. An identity thief may bill Medicare for expensive services that were never provided or overbill for provided services. This can lead to inaccuracies in medical records, which can mean delayed care or denied services for patients and impacts taxpayer funding.
To help combat this, we’ll be sending all Medicare beneficiaries a new card with a unique, randomly-assigned Medicare number. It will consist of eleven characters, a combination of numbers and uppercase letters.
Because it is randomly generated, there is no connection to any other personal identifying information. This new number will replace the Social Security-based number currently used on all Medicare cards, and it’s designed to protect the personal information of Medicare beneficiaries.
We’ll begin mailing the newly designed Medicare cards in April 2018, and we’ll replace all cards by April 2019. If you’re a Medicare beneficiary, or soon will be, you don’t need to do anything, and you can start using your new card as soon as you get it.
When you get your new card, we’ll ask you to safely and securely destroy your current Medicare card. Make sure you bring the new card to your doctors’ appointments, and always keep your new number confidential. This will help protect your personal identity and prevent medical identity fraud because identity thieves can’t bill Medicare without a valid Medicare number. Additionally, you and your health care providers will be able to use secure online tools that we’re developing that will support quick access to your Medicare number when needed.
You’ll be hearing a lot more about this initiative in the coming weeks and months, and we’re also helping doctors and other healthcare providers get ready for the change. We want to make this process as easy as possible for everyone involved. Above all, we want to ensure that people with Medicare and healthcare providers know about these changes well in advance and have the information needed to ensure an easy transition to the new card.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.