Q: Several of my friends have told me they heard we are getting new Medicare cards. Some are convinced this means the program is changing. Are they taking away any of our benefits we are currently getting?
A: There is no basis for their concerns at this point. Actually the reason for the new cards being issued over the next few months is to protect beneficiaries and is in their best interests. It is a sad commentary older adults are at risk of identify theft is a scammer gains access to their Medicare card which currently lists Social Security numbers.
To give you a little background, the proposed change in the card has been in the works for quite some time. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 required Social Security numbers to be removed from all Medicare cards by April 2019. The cards will now be replaced with a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier, a randomly generated sequence of 11 numbers and letters. The effective date will remain the same which is the date the individual became eligible for Medicare benefits.
Distribution of the new cards will take place in phases. Beneficiaries residing in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia will be the first to receive the new cards. Projected date is during the month of May. At this point beneficiaries who live in Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Rhode Island are in the fourth phase and should receive their cards after June 2018.
Beneficiaries should use their new card as soon as it is received, until that time their current card will remain active. It is extremely important for anyone who is enrolled in Medicare to notify Social Security if their address changes. They can make the change by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or doing so on-line at ssa.gov/myaccount. While the changes are an effort to prevent fraud and fight medical identity theft individuals should continue to be cautious and never give out information relevant to the card if they receive a phone call from an unknown person.
Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff are available for no cost consultations in the home, office or community. For additional information or to schedule an appointment call 1-800-892-0890.
Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Direct correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., AgeInfo Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the CEO of Elder Services.