The number one question I used to be asked was, “When is Medicare going to remove my Social Security number from my Medicare card?” After years of being the bearer of bad news, I am happy to report that changes have finally taken place.
Numerous public and private enterprises have utilized Social Security numbers (SSNs) as reliable and unique pieces of identifying information. However, the use of SSNs on items like insurance cards and driver’s licenses has become illegal. The Department of Health and Human Services has long advocated taking SSNs off Medicare cards as well, but the estimated costs and effort involved prevented this update. That is, until President Obama signed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015. This bill mandated that social security numbers be removed from Medicare cards by April 2019 and allocated funds for this transition. The distribution of new Medicare cards for existing beneficiaries began in April 2018.
Why Has It Taken So Long?
Medicare and partnering agencies, such as the Social Security Administration (SSA), have used Social Security numbers as beneficiaries’ Health Insurance Claim Numbers (HICNs) for years. To make the transition as smooth as possible, Medicare and their partner organizations had to enable their systems to recognize the new, randomly assigned Medicare Numbers. Implementation of this process, of course, took some time. Not to mention, distributing new cards to millions of beneficiaries nationwide is also a lengthy process.
All New Medicare Cards Have Been Mailed
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) chose to mail out new cards to existing beneficiaries in geographic waves, and all new card deliveries have been completed. New cards can be used as soon as they arrive. Be sure to destroy old cards by shredding them or cutting them up with scissors.
Current Medicare beneficiaries who have yet to receive a new card that does NOT display their SSN should check that their mailing address is current at www.SSA.gov and immediately contact Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE.
Beware of Medicare Scammers
Remember, these new cards are FREE and mailed automatically to the address associated with each beneficiary’s My Social Security account (the online benefits management platform used by both the SSA and CMS). Be aware that scammers may use this transition as an opportunity to contact seniors and solicit sensitive identifying information or payment under the guise it’s needed to deliver their new Medicare cards. Medicare will NEVER contact you uninvited to request this information or request payment in exchange for your new card or new Medicare Number. Be sure to continue protecting your new card and using it with caution since the information on it is still sensitive and can be used by identity thieves.