The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has a message for seniors with Medicare: Watch your mailboxes.
Beginning next month, the federal government will begin issuing new Medicare cards that will have unique, randomly assigned numbers and letters that replace Social Security numbers. The cards will be mailed out in waves beginning April 1 and running through April 2019.
Oregon Medicare beneficiaries are in the first group to receive new cards, but cards won’t be headed to Washington residents until after June. A more exact timeline isn’t yet available.
The new cards will feature an 11-character identifier, which will include numbers and uppercase letters. The combinations are randomly assigned and don’t have any hidden or special meaning, according to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services is reminding seniors to make sure their mailing addresses are up to date as the agency prepares to begin mailing out new cards. If your address needs to be corrected, contact Social Security at www.ssa.gov/myaccount or 1-800-772-1213
Medicare beneficiaries should start using their new cards as soon as they receive them, but the old cards and numbers will still work until Dec. 31, 2019. The cards do not change Medicare benefits.
The biggest reason for the change is to protect seniors from medical identity theft, according to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Incidents of identity theft among seniors increased from 2.1 million in 2012 to 2.6 million in 2014, according to Department of Justice data.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is warning people about potential scams related to the new cards. Seniors will never be asked to give personal or private information in order to get their new Medicare number and card.
As the new card rollout begins, Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has some additional tips for seniors:
• Destroy your old card: Once you receive your new card, run the old card through a shredder or cut it up with scissors.
• Guard your card: Only give your new Medicare number to health care providers, your insurers or people you trust to work with Medicare on your behalf.
• Your new card is paper: Paper cards are easier for many providers to use and copy. You can print your own replacement card.
• Keep your new card with you: Carry your new card and show it to providers when you need care.
• You can find your number: If you forget your new card, you or your doctor can look it up online.
• Keep your Medicare Advantage card: If you’re in a Medicare Advantage plan, your Medicare Advantage plan ID card is your main card for Medicare. However, your medical provider may also ask to see your new Medicare card.
• Help is available: If you don’t get your new Medicare card by April 2019, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).