Identity theft has been rising among those who are age 65 and older. According to the Department of Justice, there were 2.6 million case of identity theft in this age group in 2014 -- up a half million in just two years. This is one reason why the Medicare program has decided to no longer use Social Security Numbers (SSNs).
In 2015, a federal law called the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) was passed. It requires that all SSNs be removed from Medicare cards. For many years, Medicare has used an SSN-based system to identify people with coverage. But in an effort to help prevent identity theft and protect people’s private healthcare and financial information, these SSNs will no longer be used beginning in April 2019.
Anyone with Medicare coverage will be assigned a new “identifier” number, which will be used in place of your SSN. The identifier number will be 11 characters and will be used for Medicare transactions like billing, eligibility status and claim status. The number is randomly assigned to you and will be kept confidential.
Take note: you will automatically receive a new Medicare card in the mail at no cost – in other words, you do not need to do anything to get the new card. Cards will start being mailed in April 2018 and you can use the card as soon as you receive it.
But be careful … scams have already surfaced. Scammers are reportedly calling Medicare recipients and telling them they must pay for their new card, and are then asking for checking account numbers and Medicare card numbers (which currently is their SSN). Whatever you do, DO NOT GIVE OUT EITHER NUMBER. Just hang up the telephone.
Also remember this: your Medicare benefits are not changing. Rather, you are simply getting a new card with a new identifier number. The government has indicated that Medicare operations should not be interrupted in any way during the transition period from April 1, 2018 through December 31, 2019.