NEW BRITAIN - In an effort to protect seniors from identity theft, new numbers will be placed on Medicare cards beginning April 2018.
Medicare cards now have Social Security numbers printed on them, enhancing the risk of identity theft for the holders if the cards are lost or stolen.
“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 Seema Verma, administrator at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in a statement. “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.”
According to the most recent data from the Department of Justice, 2.6 million cases of identity fraud involving seniors were reported in 2014, up from 2.1 million two years earlier.
By next April, Medicare recipients will begin to receive new cards with new numbers.
This action is a result of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, signed into law by then-President Barack Obama, requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to replace Medicare cards with ones that do not display Social Security numbers.
The deadline for all beneficiaries to receive new cards is April 2019.
Those who need Medicare services during the transition can still go to their providers and use their old cards until the new ones arrive.
The new cards will automatically be mailed to beneficiaries, and there is no need to sign up or verify information to obtain them - nor is there a charge.
“If anyone calls you to say you need to pay for your new Medicare card, it is a scam,” said Amy Nofziger, a fraud prevention expert with AARP. “If anybody is calling you and asking you to verify your Social Security number in order to issue your new Medicare card, it is a scam.”
Once the new card is received, the recipients should destroy their old cards and start using the new cards immediately.
At the New Britain Senior Center, two people interviewed agreed that it is a good idea that the government is replacing the cards.
Although Alice Noury has never gotten her identity stolen, she said her daughter has, multiple times. She said she does not carry her Medicare card on her anymore, and is always cautious when she has to give out the number at doctor visits.
Kathryn LaVette said she frequently travels to and from Florida with her Medicare card, just in case anything was to happen to her.
Now both can feel more comfortable once their new cards arrive.
For more information and what to expect starting next spring, visit cms.gov/newcard.
Associated Press reports were included in this story.
Angie DeRosa can be reached at 860-801-5063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.