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New Medicare Cards Offer Greater Protection

New Medicare cards will be issued to Medicare beneficiaries next year.  The new Medicare cards will offer greater protection to more than 57.7 million Americans.

In an attempt to prevent fraud, identity theft, and to safeguard taxpayer’s dollars, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is taking steps in this prevention initiative to remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards.

new medicare cards

Identity Theft from Medicare Cards

A large and growing number of senior citizens need personal identity protection.  Personal identity theft is victimizing an increasing number of people age 65 or older.  According to the most current statistics from the Department of Justice, identity theft incidents involving seniors increased from to 2.1 million to 2.6 million between 2012 and 2014.

Identity theft disrupts lives.  The crime takes an emotional toll on individuals and families who experience it.  It also causes financial loss, damages credit ratings, inaccuracies in medical records, and results in costly false claims.

In Tuesday’s press release, CMS Administrator Seema Verma noted the changes to take place with the new Medicare cards.

“We’re taking this step to protect our seniors from fraudulent use of Social Security numbers which can lead to identity theft and illegal use of Medicare benefits.  We want to be sure that Medicare beneficiaries and healthcare providers know about these changes well in advance and have the information they need to make a seamless transition.”

New Medicare Cards

New Medicare cards will offer greater protection to more than 57.7 million Americans.  To combat fraud and illegal use, the new cards will drop beneficiaries’ current identification numbers — which are based on their Social Security numbers.  Instead the cards will have “a unique, randomly-assigned number called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI).”

All Medicare beneficiaries will be assigned a new, unique MBI number.  The cards will contain a combination of numbers and uppercase letters. Later, beneficiaries will be instructed to safely and securely destroy their current Medicare cards and keep the new MBI confidential. Medicare beneficiary benefits will not change.

Beneficiaries and providers will both be able to use secure look up tools.  These tools support quick access to MBIs when they need them. During a 21-month transition period providers will be able to use either the MBI or the HICN.

Work on this vital initiative began many years ago.  The program was accelerated following passage of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.

CMS will begin mailing new Medicare cards in April 2018.  The agency will meet the congressional deadline for replacing all Medicare cards by April 2019.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has a website dedicated to the Social Security Removal Initiative where providers can find the latest information and sign-up for newsletters.

CMS is also planning regular calls as a way to share updates and answer provider questions — before and after new Medicare cards are mailed — beginning in April 2018.

Featured image courtesy of Marcos Tulio via Public Domain Pictures | Cropped and Resized | CC-BY-SA-1.0

About the author: George Zapo is certified in Public Health Promotion and Education (Kent State University). George provides informative articles promoting healthy behavior and lifestyles.

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