- Written by Jim Miller 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.
– Leery Senior
The government has begun 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
In April, Medicare began removing Social Security numbers from their new Medicare cards and mailing them out to everyone who gets Medicare benefits. This change helps protect your identity and reduces 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 www.SSA.gov/myaccount or call (800) 772-1213.
When you get your new card, your Medicare coverage and benefits will stay the same.
The cards will be mailed in waves, to various parts of the country over a 12-month period ending April 2019.
Medicare beneficiaries in Alaska, California, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia were 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 are 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, call (800) MEDICARE or visit go.medicare.gov/newcard.
And if you suspect fraud, report it to the FTC (www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov); AARP’s fraud helpline, (877) 908-3360; or Pennsylvania’s Senior Medicare Patrol program at (800) 356-3606 or www.carie.org/programs/senior-medicare-patrol.
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.