We often get new cards in the mail, from credit to retail to random discounts, many of them unwanted.
But there’s a very important card on its way – or newly arrived – for hundreds of thousands of Georgians 65 and older. Don’t toss it into the junk mail pile.
Medicare is replacing its card for beneficiaries, shipping them a new one that does not have the person’s Social Security number.
The new card will give Medicare members a randomly assigned number that aims to protect their identities, reducing the opportunity for fraud and providing what federal officials say are better safeguards of health and financial information.
“Removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards is one of the many ways CMS is committed to putting patients first and improving the consumer health care experience,” Angela Brice-Smith, regional administrator for the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), said in a statement. “This change not only protects Medicare patients from fraud, but also safeguards taxpayer dollars by making it harder for criminals to use Social Security numbers to falsely bill Medicare for care services and benefits that were never performed.”
CMS has begun mailing the new cards to Medicare members in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The new cards use an 11-character Medicare identifier that contains both numbers and letters.
Medicare is the federal health insurance program that covers people 65 and older and people with disabilities.
As soon as people receive their new Medicare card, they should destroy the old card and keep the new number confidential.
The new Medicare card will not change any of the benefits and services that the program provides.
While the cards are safer, criminals are always alert to new ways of scamming people, said Amy Nofziger, a fraud expert with AARP, the New York Times reported. Recent calls to the group’s fraud help line indicate that some people have received calls asking for a fee in order to deliver a new Medicare card, or asking for personal information before a new card can be issued.
Such calls are bogus. “The card is free,” Ms. Nofziger said, and will be mailed automatically, the Times reported.
CMS said it’s about halfway through its mailings nationally.
As the new Medicare cards are being mailed, people with Medicare or their family members should follow these tips:
** Medicare will never contact you for your Medicare number or other personal information so you can obtain your new card.
** Don’t pay anyone for your new Medicare card. It’s free. If anyone calls or approaches you and says you need to pay for it, that’s a scam.
** When you get your new card, safeguard it as you would health insurance or credit cards.
** Give your new Medicare number only to doctors, pharmacists, other health care providers, your insurers, or people you trust to work with Medicare on your behalf.
** Your new card will automatically come to you. You don’t need to do anything as long as your address is up to date. If you need to update your address, visit your My Social Security account.
** Your new Medicare number is a unique combination of numbers and letters. Your new number uses numbers 0 thru 9. The letters S, L, O, I, B, and Z are never used.
Scam artists, who often prey on older people, may try to get personal information (like a Medicare number) by contacting you about your new card.
If someone asks you for your information, for money, or threatens to cancel your health benefits if you don’t share your personal information, hang up and call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).