Today, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that they completed the large-scale distribution of the new, more secure Medicare cards to beneficiaries, well ahead of the April 2019 deadline. Over the last nine months, CMS successfully mailed out new cards to more than 61 million Medicare enrollees. These new cards have been immediately eligible for use to help seniors with medical coverage.
“Safeguarding our beneficiaries’ personal information continues to be one of our top priorities,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said. “All beneficiaries should continue to use these new cards as a valuable resource when seeking care. These new cards will not only be easier for beneficiaries, but also provide the Medicare program with essential protections due to the new unique identifier on the cards.”
Why the Cards Were Sent Out
On September 14, 2017, CMS announced that they would be releasing new Medicare cards that removed Social Security numbers (SSN) in an effort to combat identity theft and fraud. The new cards replaced SSNs with a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI), a randomly generated combination of numbers and letters that are unique to each beneficiary. These cards were sent out in waves beginning in April 2018 and ending this month.
The new cards replaced SSNs with unique, randomly generated combinations of numbers and letters called MBIs.
“The goal of the initiative to remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards is to help prevent fraud, combat identity theft, and safeguard taxpayer dollars,” Verma said at the time. “We’re very excited to share the new design.”
I Haven’t Received My Card Yet
If you have not received your new Medicare card, CMS lists three ways you can fix this. One of the easiest ways to get your new card is to call 1-800-MEDICARE and explain that you haven’t received a card yet. The associate will be able to verify your Medicare status and get the ball rolling on a new card.
Your MBI and Medicare information is currently available online, even if you haven’t gotten your card yet.
Another option is to log into your MyMedicare.gov account to find your new MBI number or to print out a Medicare card. Your MBI and Medicare information is currently available on your account, so this would allow you to verify this number, even without the card.
Finally, you can ask your healthcare provider to look up your MBI number. They have access to this information through a secured database, so even without your card, they should be able to find this data. Simply request they look it up when you head in for a medical service.
Protecting Your Information
When Medicare sent these cards out, the goal was to protect Medicare beneficiaries’ information. By removing the Social Security information, they made a progressive step toward achieving this. But, there are certainly ways that beneficiaries should protect their information once it gets to them.
To maintain this security protection, CMS requested that beneficiaries do the following:
- Destroy old Medicare cards that contain personally identifiable information like your zip code.
- Start using your new Medicare card with the MBI as soon as you receive it.
- Keep your other Medicare plan cards, like your Medicare Advantage (Part C) or Part D cards.
- Practice good identity protection habits.