Medicare is making some changes in 2018 that will help protect your identity and keep providing you will proper health benefits. The biggest change will be the new Medicare ID cards.
Seniors new to Medicare are usually shocked to see that their Medicare Identification number is the same as their social security number. Especially when they have been told to keep their social security cards put in a safe place and never in a wallet or purse.
Identity theft is serious issue, if someone has your social security number they can open bank accounts, apply for loans, and sometimes even gain employment. A social security number is a key to your credit and identity.
Changing the Medicare Identifier is something the Social Security administration and the Federal Trade Commission have been urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to update for years.
Back in 2012 CMS said they didn’t want to change the numbers because it would cost them at least $800 million and take five years to issue new numbers and change the current cards. They also explained that the doctors and health care providers across the United States would have to update their records.
After years of pushing for changes, CMS has made the decision to transition to updated cards without social security numbers being used as the identifier. The new cards were sent via mail the beginning of April 2018. Ideally by April 2019, all Medicare beneficiaries will have a new, updated card.
The New Medicare Card
The new cards will feature a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) number that is randomly assigned to Medicare participants. Medicare beneficiaries and their health care providers will be able to securely access tools that allow them to lookup MBIs when needed.
Additionally, providers can use a patients Social Security number or their new MBI number for a 21-month transition period. This transition period is to help things run smoothly for providers across the country. Medicare benefits will not be affected by the issuance of a new card.
The best way Medicare recipients can prepare, is by knowing about the new Medicare card. Being informed will help keep identities protected from fraud or abuse.
The new MBI number will be:
- 11 characters long
- A combination of numbers and uppercase letters
- No special number meanings
- Mailed to you based on your geographical location
- Your neighbor may get their card at a different time than you
- Safe to keep with you always
This change should be smooth for caregivers, patients and others who need accurate Medicare information. The transition period that is scheduled from April 1, 2018 until December 31, 2019 will allow beneficiaries and providers to exchange Medicare information with CMS using MBI or Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN).
January 1, 2020, caregivers and beneficiaries will be required to use a MBI for most situations. It is recommended that seniors keep an eye out for their new Medicare card and get into the habit of using their new MBI early.
Receiving Your New Card
When your new Medicare card arrives, the old Medicare cards need to be destroyed immediately. You can start using your new card right away. Keeping your new MBI number confidential is important, watch the mail carefully so you are aware when your new Medicare card is delivered.
These new cards are made of paper, making it easier for your provider to use and copy. If you are enrolled into a Medicare Advantage Plan, that Medicare Advantage Plan ID card is your main card. A health care provider may ask to see your MBI card so keep it with you.
For those on a Medicare Advantage Plan, you should be storing your Medicare Card in a lockbox for safe keeping. Once your provider has a copy, it is important that you safeguard the original.
Doctors, facilities and health care providers are aware of the new Medicare cards, they will ask for the MBI number, carry the card with you. Only give your new MBI number to health care providers you trust to work with Medicare on your behalf.
If you do forget your new MBI card, your doctor or health care provider may be able to look up the information online.
Start Protecting Your Identity Now
Identity thieves have acknowledged seniors as ideal victims for identity fraud. Seniors usually have larger checking and savings accounts, and they have paid off their major financial obligations.
Personal identity theft has been affecting a growing number of seniors aged 65 or older. Two-thirds of identity theft victims report a direct financial loss and emotional stress. This kind of crime will disrupt lives, destroy credit ratings and cause errors on medical records resulting in costly false claims.
Seniors usually receive Medicare benefits, which opens the door for identity theft in the medical sector. Most seniors don’t check their credit as often since they have no relevant reasons to stay informed; seniors usually aren’t purchasing new homes or taking out large loans.
Make Copies of Your Insurance Card
Seniors should not need be expected to always carry an Original Medicare, Medicaid, or other health insurance card in your wallet. Making a copy of these card and removing the last 4 of your social security number will make identity theft harder for a criminal.
Leaving the original at home and only carrying the copy will mean you won’t have to worry as much if you lost your wallet or had it stolen. If thieves steal your wallet, they wouldn’t have access to all your necessary information.
Most Doctors keep a copy of your Medicare, Medicaid, or other health insurance card in your file after your first visit. You might not need your insurance card at every appointment. If you are visiting a new doctor you want to remove that card from your wallet after the appointment and store it in a safe place where you live.
Keep Important Documents Secure
Having a home safe can allow you to store important documents; if you have immensely important documents you should consider a bank safety deposit box, if they are documents you don’t need to often.
When leaving your house with important documents relating to your personal identity and financial information you need to return these items immediately back to their safe place.
You should never carry around extra bank cards, credit cards you don’t often use, any health insurance-related card or your social security card.
Destroy Financial and Personal Documents
There are some documents you might need to keep stored safely. Documents with personally identifying or financial information need to be destroyed.
Things you should be destroying:
- Credit card statements
- Bank statements
- Tax documents
- Cancelled checks
- Old driver’s licenses
If you need to carry a health insurance card that has your social security number on it, make a copy of the card and remove the last four digits of the SSN from the photocopy. If it is your initial visit you will need the original card for the health care provider to make a photocopy for their files.
Protect Your Computer and Internet Access
There are simple ways people can protect their computers and Internet activities. The first step is to be sure you use anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall software to combat hacking programs designed to steal personal information.
Be unique when creating a password and never use the same password for multiple accounts. Never use obvious passwords such as a pet name or a birthday. Use a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
Choosing harder password retrieval questions can keep you more secure. Anyone could figure out a maiden name; not everyone knows your middle school mascot. Changing your password regularly can also ensure your privacy.
Never send personal or financial information through an Email. No matter what company asks for this information, never send it via Email. Call the company requesting information instead of responding to the Email.
Your Internet installations service rep can help you make sure your home wireless network is password protected, make sure you are secure. You can always consult a computer or software specialist with help getting and keeping your computer up and running as safely as possible.
Check Your Credit Report
Most seniors are retired and enjoying life, keeping up with the latest fraud attempt is not something they planned on spending their day doing. If you are a senior and you think your identity has been compromised, talk to your family members or someone.
Every 12 months a free credit report can be provided for you from each of the nationwide credit reporting agencies per the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Take advantage of the free service and be confident that someone is not in the process of taking out a big loan under your identity.
The Purpose of a New Number
The current number on many of the current Medicare ID cards is the person’s Social Security number. This number is used by the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board, state Medicaid agencies, Social Security, health care providers and health plans.
We all know the dangers of our social security number being in the hands of a criminal. That is why Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization ACT of 2015 required CMS to replace the old numbers with new ones and give them a new name; Medicare Beneficiary Identifier.
These new cards are being released for one reason, to better prevent identity theft happening to seniors.
The purpose of a new Medicare ID card was to prevent identity theft, unfortunately, the change has inspired criminals to take new approaches. Attempts have been made to mislead Medicare recipients and more attempts will be made as the new cards arrive, beneficiaries need to be aware of possible scams.
The new Medicare ID card is no cost to beneficiaries. The card is sent to you for FREE and you do not have to pay for the new number. The new Medicare card will have the same medical benefits as the current Medicare card. Be sure to keep your new Medicare card in a secure location. Do not give your card to anyone other than your health care providers. Many identity thefts are committed by friends and family.
Nobody should be contacting you about your new Medicare card, your Medicare number, or any personal information. Medicare is not going to ask you to give personal information to get your new number and card. Treat your new Medicare card like another Social Security card or credit card.
Medicare will never make uninvited calls to beneficiaries; if you didn’t call Medicare, they shouldn’t be calling you. If you think you are a victim of medical identity theft, contact the Federal Trade Commission about what to do.
The Benefits of Change
With the new Medicare cards no longer displaying a beneficiaries Social Security number, scammers are less likely to be able to commit fraud. The new Medicare card numbers are placed in a random sequence with numbers and letters, unique to each beneficiary.
It is important that beneficiaries understand the MBI needs to remain confidential and should be treated like Personally Identifiable Information.
Anytime you give out your Social Security number, there is an opportunity for an individual or hacker to utilize that information for opening credit cards or obtaining a loan. Beneficiaries can be properly safeguarded by not having their Social Security number on their Medicare cards anymore.
If you forget your new card at home, the doctor staff can look up your new Medicare ID number on a secure site. Additionally, all your existing Medicare information will still be available to your doctor.
These new Medicare ID cards will provide greater identity protection to over 57 million Americans. The removal of Social Security numbers from the health insurance card will hopefully combat fraud and illegal use.
CMS is working toward a successful transition to the MBI for all people with Medicare and for the health care providers.