Thousands of Medicare members in Santa Barbara County will start receiving new cards during the next year. Medicare is removing Social Security numbers that were previously on identification cards and replacing them with a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier number that is secure and unique to the cardholder. The cards will be used for Medicare transactions like billing, eligibility status, and claim status.
Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older, certain younger people with disabilities, and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant, sometimes called ESRD).
The new card won’t change anyone’s coverage or benefits but will make your personal information more secure.
Medicare has until April 2019 to deliver the new versions. The new cards are paper, which will be easier for healthcare providers to copy if needed.
According Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), some 57.7 million Americans will receive the new randomly-assigned identification cards.
“We’re taking this step to protect our seniors from fraudulent use of Social Security numbers which can lead to identity theft and illegal use of Medicare benefits,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma, in a press release. “We want to be sure that Medicare beneficiaries and healthcare providers know about these changes well in advance and have the information they need to make a seamless transition.”
The change was necessary, according to CMS, because identity theft affects a large and growing number of seniors. People age 65 or older are increasingly the victims of this type of crime. Incidents among seniors increased to 2.6 million from 2.1 million between 2012 and 2014, according to the most current statistics from the Department of Justice.
“Identity theft can take not only an emotional toll on those who experience it but also a financial one: two-thirds of all identity theft victims reported a direct financial loss,” CMS officials noted. “It can also disrupt lives, damage credit ratings and result in inaccuracies in medical records and costly false claims.”
Beneficiaries will be instructed to safely and securely destroy their current Medicare cards and keep the new MBI confidential.
If you’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO), your Medicare Advantage Plan ID card is your main card for Medicare — you should still keep and use it whenever you need care. However, you also may be asked to show your new Medicare card, so you should carry this card too.
CMS also warns Medicare users to beware of anyone who contacts you about your new Medicare card. CMS will never ask you to give their representative personal or private information to get your new Medicare Number and card. Scam artists may try to get personal information (like your current 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 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
CMS plans to have a transition period where you can use either the HICN or the MBI to exchange data with the agency. The transition period will begin no earlier than April 1, 2018, and run through December 31, 2019. During the transition period, CMS will monitor the use of HICNs and MBIs to see how many people are ready to use only MBIs by January 2020. CMS said it would also actively monitor the transition and adjustment to the new MBIs to make sure of their wide-spread adoption so Medicare operations aren’t interrupted.