By Jim Miller
Dear Savvy Senior,
What can you tell me about the new Medicare cards? I’ve heard there are a lot of scams associated with these new cards and I want to make sure I protect myself.
The government will soon be sending out brand new Medicare cards to 59 million Medicare beneficiaries. Here’s what you should know about your new card along with some tips to help you guard against potential scams.
New Medicare Cards
Starting in April 2018, Medicare will be removing Social Security numbers from their new Medicare cards, and begin mailing them out to everyone who gets Medicare benefits. The reason for this change is to help protect your identity and reduce medical and financial fraud. The new cards will have a randomly generated 11-character Medicare number. This will happen automatically. You don’t need to do anything or pay anyone to get your new card.
Medicare will mail your card, at no cost, to the address you have on file with the Social Security Administration. If you need to update your official mailing address, visit your online Social Security account at SSA.gov/myaccount or call 800-772-1213. When you get your new card, your Medicare coverage and benefits will stay the same.
If you have a relative or friend who lives in another state and gets their card before you, don’t fret. The cards will be mailed in waves, to various parts of the country over a 12-month period starting in April, and ending April 2019. Medicare beneficiaries in Alaska, California, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia will be the first to receive the mailings, between April and June.
The last wave of states will be Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee, along with Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
When you get your new Medicare card, don’t throw your old one in the trash. Instead, put it through a shredder or cut it up with a pair of scissors and make sure the part showing your Social Security number is destroyed.
If you have a separate Medicare Advantage card, keep it because you’ll still need it for treatment.
Watch Out For Scams
As the new Medicare cards start being mailed, be on the lookout for Medicare scams. Here are some tips:
• Don’t pay for your new card. It’s yours for free. If anyone calls and says you need to pay for it, that’s a scam.
• Don’t give personal information to get your card. If someone calls claiming to be from Medicare, asking for your Social Security number or bank information, that’s a scam. Hang up. Medicare will never ask you to give personal information to get your new number and card.
• Guard your card. When you get your new card, safeguard it like you would any other health insurance or credit card. While removing the Social Security number cuts down on many types of identity theft, you’ll still want to protect your new card because identity thieves could use it to get medical services.
For more information about changes to your Medicare card go to Go.medicare.gov/newcard. And if you suspect fraud, report it to the FTC (FTCcomplaintassistant.gov), AARP’s fraud help line, 877-908-3360, or your local Senior Medicare Patrol program. Go to SMPresource.org for contact information.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.