You read about identity theft every day and we are deluged with information about various ways to protect ourselves. Nevertheless, those of us over 65 carry a Medicare card in our wallet or purse that, in most cases, displays our Social Security Number (SSN). Despite all the concern about protecting that sensitive SSN, the government has insisted on using that number for Medicare for many years. That is about to change!
The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, or MACRA, contained a provision requiring the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to remove SSN’s from Medicare cards. Beginning in April, CMS will begin sending out new cards to Medicare recipients with an ID number that is randomly generated and bears no resemblance to your SSN. The cards won’t go out all at once but some will be mailed out each month until the process is finished in April 2019.
According to the CMS Press Release last month, “The goal of the initiative to remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards is to help prevent fraud, combat identify theft, and safeguard taxpayer dollars,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “We’re very excited to share the new design.”
After testing 10 different designs, CMS ended up staying with the familiar red, white and blue theme as shown in the photo above. The new cards will go out to about 58 Million people with instructions to securely destroy their old card once the new one is received. Even with the new card, Medicare recipients are advised to keep their Medicare Claim Number confidential to avoid claims fraud and abuse.