New Medicare cards replace Social Security numbers to protect beneficiaries

PROVIDENCE – The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is mailing new Medicare cards this month with randomly assigned Medicare numbers instead of Social Security numbers in an effort to protect the identities, financial and health information of beneficiaries.

The new Medicare numbers are unique and randomly assigned, according to CMS.

“Removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards is one of the many ways CMS is committed to putting patients first and improving the consumer health care experience,” said Ray Hurd, regional administrator for the Boston and New York regional offices of CMS.

“This change not only protects Medicare patients from fraud, but also safeguards taxpayer dollars by making it harder for criminals to use Social Security numbers to falsely bill Medicare for care services and benefits that were never performed,” Hurd said.

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Work on the initiative was authorized by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.

CMS began mailing updated Medicare cards to people who currently have Medicare benefits in Rhode Island last week. People who are new to Medicare in Rhode Island started to receive new Medicare cards in April along with others across the country when the mailing first began.

As soon as people receive their new Medicare card, they should safely and securely destroy their old Medicare card and keep their new Medicare number confidential. The CMS mailing schedule will allow the agency to send new cards to all people with Medicare, new and current enrollees, over the next year.

The new Medicare cards will not change any of the program benefits and services that eligible people enrolled in Medicare receive. People with Medicare and their caregivers can visit medicare.gov/newcard to find out when new Medicare cards will be mailed to their area. They can also sign up for email notifications about the new card mailing and check the status in their state.

Health care providers, suppliers and people with Medicare will be able to use secure lookup tools that allow quick access to the new Medicare numbers when needed. There will also be a 21-month transition period for health care providers and suppliers to use either the former Social Security-based Medicare number or the new Medicare number to ensure a seamless transition.

As the new Medicare cards are being mailed, people with Medicare should look out for scams and follow these tips:

  • Medicare will never contact you for your Medicare number or other personal information so you can obtain your new Medicare card.
  • Don’t pay for your new Medicare card. It’s free. If anyone calls or approaches you and says you need to pay for it, that’s a scam.
  • Guard your card. When you get your new card, safeguard it like you would health insurance or credit cards.
  • Only give your new Medicare number to doctors, pharmacists, other health care providers, your insurers or people you trust to work with Medicare on your behalf.

Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Borkowski@PBN.com.