In April, the government will start sending out new Medicare cards, launching an enormous, yearlong effort to alter how 59 million people signed up for the government health insurance program are identified.
Historically, Medicare ID cards happen to be stamped with the Social Security numbers of members – currently, about 50 million seniors and 9 million individuals with serious disabilities. But that is been problematic: If a wallet or purse were stolen, a thief could use that information, with an address or birthdate on the driver's license, to steal someone's identity.
For years, phone scammers have preyed on older adults by requesting their Medicare numbers, giving various reasons for doing so. People who fall for these ruses have discovered accounts emptied, Social Security payments diverted or bills in their mailboxes for medical services or equipment never received.
The new cards address these concerns by removing each member's Social Security number and replacing it with a new, randomly generated 11-digit “Medicare number” (some capital letters are included). This is accustomed to verify eligibility for services and for billing purposes moving forward.
Such a major change can involve bumps on the way, so there will be a transition period during which you can use either your new Medicare card or your old card at doctors' offices and hospitals. Both should work until Dec. 31, 2021.
If you forget your brand-new card in your own home, your doctor's staff should be able to lookup your new Medicare number up in a secure computer site. Or, they are able to use information that's already on file during the transition period.
“We've were built with a few individuals e mail us and ask 'If I don't have the new card in a doctor's appointment, does which means that my provider won't see me?'” said Casey Schwartz, senior counsel for education and federal policy in the Medicare Rights Center. “That shouldn't be a problem.”
Cards is going to be sent to people included in Medicare on a rolling basis on the 12-month period ending in April 2021. Older adults in Alaska, California, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia would be the first to get the mailings, between April and June, together with several U.S. territories – American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
The last wave of states is going to be Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee, together with Puerto Rico and also the Virgin Islands.
“If your sister who lives in another state gets her card before you decide to, do not worry,” the Federal Trade Commission explained in a new alert. Since the cards 're going out in waves, “your card may get to a different time than hers.”
If you think Social Security might possibly not have your current address, call 1-800-772-1213 or look at your online Social Security account at https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/, the FTC advised.
When you get your brand-new Medicare card, don't throw your old one in the trash. Instead, place it via a shredder or “spend time cutting it up with a pair of scissors” to make sure the part showing your Social Security number is destroyed, said Amy Nofziger, a fraud expert for AARP.
Those numbers remain sought-after by scammers, and AARP and Senior Medicare Patrol groups tell of receiving fraud reports associated with Medicare cards since this past year.
In one scam, reported by California's Area 1 Agency on Aging, a caller purporting to represent Medicare or any other government agency states need your bank account information so Medicare can arrange a direct deposit of funds into your account. The brand new Medicare cards are used being an excuse for that call.
In another, circulating in Iowa, scammers are threatening to cancel seniors' health insurance when they don't give out their current Medicare card numbers. “We're telling people, do not ever give someone this number – just hang up,” said Nancy Ketcham, elder rights specialist at the Elderbridge Agency on Aging, which serves 29 counties in northwestern Iowa.
A month ago, Alfonso Hernandez, 65, who lives in Moreno Valley, Calif., received a phone call from a man who told him, in Spanish, that Medicare was going to issue new cards and that he required to verify some information, including Hernandez's name, address and Ssn.
“I said no, normally, I do not give my Social Security number to anyone,” Hernandez said. At that point, the caller put his “supervisor” on the telephone, who said the federal government required to make sure it had correct information. Caught unawares, Hernandez recited his Ssn and, “as soon when i did that, they hung up.”
“Immediately, I'm like ‘my dear God, what did I do,’” said Hernandez, who quickly contacted credit agencies to possess them put an alert on his account. “I just keep praying that nothing happens.”
Just a week ago, California's Senior Medicare Patrol program received a study of another scam detected in Riverside County: a caller claiming that before a senior can get a brand new Medicare card, she or he has to pay for $5 to $50 for a new “temporary” card, according to Sandy Morales, a case manager using the program.
Nofziger of AARP said a Medicare representative won't ever contact an older adult by phone or email about the new cards and will certainly “never ask for money or personal information or threaten to cancel your health benefits.” The brand new Medicare cards have the freedom and you don't have to do anything whatsoever to get one: They're being sent automatically to everyone enrolled in the program. Don't hand out any information to callers who contact you by phone, she advised.
If you suspect fraud, report it towards the FTC , AARP's fraud help line, 1-877-908-3360, or your local Senior Medicare Patrol program.
If you're among nearly 18 million seniors and individuals with serious disabilities who've coverage through a Medicare Advantage plan, keep your card that your plan issued you. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies, which have their own way of identifying members. Similarly, for those who have prescription medication coverage through Medicare – another advantage offered through private insurance providers – keep the card for that plan too.