Preventing identity theft is the purpose of the new Medicare ID cards. Because a person’s Social Security number is currently on Medicare ID cards, this number, (used by Social Security Administration, U.S. Railroad Retirement Board, state Medicaid agencies, health care providers and health plans), is subject to misuse in the hands of an unscrupulous person. That is the reason why the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 required a replacement of the old numbers with new ones; the new name of the new number is the Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). The new cards will be distributed to Medicare beneficiaries and to people who are eligible for Medicare through the Railroad Retirement Board’s pension plans. One important exception will be those people who are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, like an HMO or PPO; they will continue to use the plan’s ID card as their main card for Medicare. Those cards already have a unique ID number that is not the Social Security number. In addition, Medicare prescription drug plans will continue to assign and use their own cards.
The new cards: (1) will be printed on regular-weight paper, (2) will be a little smaller than the old ones, about the size of a credit card, (3) will not indicate gender.
The new MBI numbers:(1) will have 11 digits; (2) will be assigned randomly; (3) will be “non-intelligent” meaning they will not have a hidden or special meaning; (4) will be a combination of single-digit numbers and upper-case letters; (5) will incorporate all the letters of the alphabet except S,L,O,I,B and Z; (6) will be easier to read and remember.
Arrival of the new cards: The first wave of mail distribution is scheduled to begin in April and will continue for a year, in which Medicare’s 55 million beneficiaries will receive a new card. You can check with Medicare.gov for updates on when you might be receiving yours. The old cards will be valid for a year or more but health care providers have to change their records. It is important to notify your doctors and other health providers when you receive the new number, so watch for the mail. If you need to update your address, go to www.ssa.gov/myaccount or call 800-772-1213.
Alert: The new Medicare card is FREE – no charge. Anyone who calls saying that he or she is from Medicare is lying – this is a scam. Medicare does not make uninvited calls to beneficiaries. Unfortunately, scams have already started. Attempts to mislead Medicare beneficiaries come in many forms and no doubt even more will pop up as the cards start arriving. If you think there is a chance you have already been a victim of medical identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission has information about what to do.