On September 14, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced they’ll release a newly designed Medicare card. The agency will begin mailing out the new cards in April 2018, with the deadline of replacing all existing Medicare cards by April 2019. The design is also featured in the updated 2018 Medicare & You handbook, which will be mailed to enrollees throughout the month of September.

Why the New Cards?

The new cards are designed to protect members’ personally identifiable information. Older versions of the Medicare card displayed the cardholder’s social security number, which can be stolen by identity thieves for a variety of uses. Now, the cards will sport a randomly-assigned combination of numbers and letters that’s unique to each beneficiary, called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier or MBI.

“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,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma explained in a press release. “We’re very excited to share the new design.”

What Now?

Once you receive your new card, you’ll receive instructions on how to safely and securely dispose of your old Medicare card. CMS has ensured Medicare beneficiaries that the new cards will not change the coverage they receive or plans they’re enrolled in.

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If April 2019 is nearing and you haven’t received your card yet, don’t fret! CMS put a 21-month transition window in place where both cards will be accepted by doctors, health care providers, and suppliers.