Baby boomers currently enrolled in Medicare will soon begin to receive new Medicare cards. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will be assigning all Medicare enrollees a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI), as well as sending them a new card. Here’s what baby boomers should know about the new Medicare cards and what changes to expect.
Why New Medicare Cards Are Being Issued
CMS decided to issue new Medicare cards as part of an effort to prevent fraud. Current Medicare cards contain the participant’s Social Security number. Unfortunately, this design puts participants at risk of identity theft if their cards are lost or are accessed by someone who wants to take advantage of their Medicare benefits.
The new Medicare cards will no longer have Social Security numbers. Instead, they will feature an MBI number, which is randomly assigned to Medicare participants. Both providers and Medicare participants will be able to use secure lookup tools that allow them to quickly access MBIs when needed.
Identity Theft and Seniors
Why make the change? Identity theft is a significant issue that affects many seniors. Identity theft is emotionally stressful but has serious financial implications, too. Two-thirds of all identity theft victims reported that they experienced a direct financial loss, according to the Department of Justice. Plus, identity theft can damage credit ratings, create inaccurate medical records, and result in false medical claims.
Between 2012 and 2014, 2.1 million seniors experienced identity theft. The introduction of new Medicare cards and the use of MBIs is an effort to reduce that number.
When Will The Change Take Place?
New cards were mailed beginning in April 2018. By April of 2019, all Medicare cards will have been replaced.
In addition to mailing out new cards, providers will be able to use either the participant’s Social Security number or their new MBI number for a 21-month transitional period. This period is designed to help ease the transition for providers so that the system continues to run smoothly.
What to Expect From Your New Card
The new Medicare cards will have an MBI number that is 11 characters long. It will have just numbers and uppercase letters and will be a combination of both. There is no special meaning to any of the letters or numbers, and the MBI number is randomly generated and assigned.
Your Medicare benefits will not change with the issuance of a new card.
You can see an example of what the new cards will look like here.
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What to Do When You Receive Your New Card
Baby Boomers who receive their new Medicare cards should securely destroy their old Medicare cards. They need to keep their new MBI confidential but may start using their new cards immediately.
Be sure to watch the mail carefully for your new card to arrive. Remember that providers can still use your social security number as identification during the 21-month transitional period, so you will still be able to make claims and receive care even if your new card doesn’t arrive right away. When you do get your new card, start using it immediately.
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