What Medicare Card Changes Mean for Boomers

Ever wonder why your Social Security number is on your Medicare card? It clearly raises concerns about potential identity theft, which, according to a recent HomeServe USA survey, is the greatest financial concern for Americans ages 50 and older.

But important identity protection changes – including the removal of the Social Security number – are finally coming to Medicare cards under a new Federal law that was recently signed by President Obama. However, the changes won’t happen overnight.

Here’s what the changes mean for you, and when you can expect to see them implemented, according to Robert Quinlan, an insurance advisor/broker at Quinlan Care LLC in New Windsor.

Boomer: When can we expect the new changes to roll out?

Quinlan: Medicare officials have up to four years to issue Medicare cards with non-Social Security numbers for people applying for Medicare for the first time. Nearly five thousand people apply for Medicare every day.

Boomer: If I have my Medicare card today with my Social Security number on it, when can I expect a revised card with new identifying numbers?

Quinlan: Not right away. Medicare officials have four more years [after the new issues] to issue new cards to people that currently have Medicare cards. That is a total of eight years for everyone to have new numbers. Congress was not in a hurry to fix this problem. Operational plans to implement the law have not been worked out. The Department of Defense and the Department of Veteran Affairs have issued ID cards with no Social Security numbers since 2008.

Boomer: Ok, so let’s say my Medicare card has my Social Security number on it. How can I protect myself from identity theft?

Quinlan: One easy and effective way is not to carry your Medicare card (or any other card that has your Social Security number on it) in your wallet unless you are going to a new doctor for the first time or to a hospital.  Remember that a hospital cannot refuse care if you don’t have a Medicare card. If your Medicare card is lost or stolen, you can replace it by calling Social Security at 800-772-1213 or go online at ssa.gov/medicarecard. You can also check for Medicare fraud by looking at your Medicare summary notices faithfully for services or supplies that you did not receive. You can report fraud by calling Medicare’s Inspector General’s hotline at 800-447-8477.