Often people who are on disability are buried by “offers” from various entities and get into the habit of “throwing out” such material as junk mail. There is a substantial change coming you may need to know about, so you do not simply throw the material into the “circular file.”
For years, people enrolled on Medicare have received a standard “red-white-and-blue” Medicare card, that they are expected to show to medical care providers. Your Medicare number has traditionally been your Social Security Number followed by a letter (usually, but not always, the letter “A”). With the growing use of a person’s Social Security Number for a variety of “identification purposes,” and the explosion of “identity theft,” the continued use of this “Social Security Number” format for Medicare cards has become too risky.
Between now and the beginning of April, if you are on Medicare, you may be receiving a new “red-white-and-blue” Medicare card. That new card will continue to have your name, start dates for Medicare parts A and B listed on the front. It will have a totally new Medicare number, which will not reflect your Social Security number. When you receive this new card, do not throw it out. You should do several things:
First, notify each of your current medical providers of the new number. Although your new Medicare number should be automatically linked to any Medicare Part D prescription drug provider, you should double-check with your pharmacy as to whether they have this updated Medicaid number information. Be sure that you bring this new card with you to any appointment with your medical providers, even if you contact them and let them know of your new number, so that they can actually verify your new card number. Be sure that you are the person that informs the medical care providers of the new number.
Second, there will be people who will try to get your new Medicare number for dishonest reasons, such as billing Medicare for services not actually provided to you. You should keep that Medicare number confidential. Generally speaking, that means that you do not provide the number to people or companies that you do not know. If you are called by a person claiming to be associated to your doctor’s office, and they ask for your new Medicare number, tell them that you will find your card and call them. Scammers may try to give you a “call back” number. Tell them you will call your doctor’s office directly and you already have the number.
Third, and very important, be sure to shred or destroy your old Medicare card once you receive the new card. Do not just throw it into the garbage, because it has your Social Security number, and such information remains valuable to identity thieves.
Finally, this new card is being sent to Medicare recipients at no fee. You do not have to pay to receive this new card, so know that any “bill” for the new card is just another attempt to steal from you.
Michael J. Elsken is a Staff Attorney for Disability Rights Nebraska (formerly Nebraska Advocacy Services, Inc.), since 2002. He has engaged in a broad range of “protection and advocacy” activities for the agency on behalf of individuals with disabilities in the State of Nebraska. Much of his work involves both disability employment and education issues.