Everything Retirees Need to Know About New Medicare Cards Coming in 2018

Attention all retirees: It’s essential you stay abreast of all changes that might affect your healthcare or benefits. Recently, the government has begun issuing new Medicare cards that are different from the previous ones. Find out what that important difference is, when you’ll get your new card (page 4),  and how it will affect your Medicare benefits.

1. You will be issued a new Medicare card

New medicare card

An examples of a new Medicare card | Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

  • All Medicare recipients will be getting a new card and ID number. 

According to CMS.gov — Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — everyone’s current Medicare card is being replaced with one that does not show the member’s Social Security number.

Instead, the card will show a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) that will replace the SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) on the old cards. Previously, the HICN was used for Medicare transactions such as billing and eligibility and claim eligibility status.

Next: The reason for the big change

2. This is why it happened

Social security identity thief

Old Medicare cards displayed Social Security numbers. | blyjak/iStock/Getty Images

  • Identity theft was a problem with the old cards.

Medicare took members’ Social Security numbers off the cards to fight medical identity theft, according to CMS.gov. The new cards will offer greater protection for your private healthcare and financial information as well as federal healthcare benefit and service payments.

The decision has been in the making for a long time — Congress, the General Accountability Office, people with Medicare, and advocacy groups all weighed in on it.

Next: More benefits

3. Recipients and taxpayers win

Man with new medicare card

A man shows off his new Medicare card | Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

  • The move will make it harder for criminals to file fake Medicare claims. 

The new cards will benefit both Medicare patients and taxpayers, according to CMS.gov. “Removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards is one of the many ways CMS is committed to putting patients first and improving the consumer healthcare experience,” said John Hammarlund, regional administrator of the CMS Seattle Office.

“This change not only protects Medicare patients from fraud, but also safeguards taxpayer dollars by making it harder for criminals to use Social Security numbers to falsely bill Medicare for care services and benefits that were never performed.”

Next: When you’ll get yours

4. Check your mail for your new card

Checking mail for medicare card

The new Medicare cards are being delivered in phases. | Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

  • New cards started to go out in April 2018.

CMS will mail out the new card in phases — from April 2018 through April 2019 — based on recipients’ geographic locations, according to CMS.gov.

As of June 2018, CMS has begun mailing new cards to people to those with Medicare benefits in Alaska, American Samoa, California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Maryland, the Northern Mariana Islands, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Virginia, and West Virginia. You can find out when you should get your new card here.

Next: The new look

5. Changes to the old cards

New medicare card

New vs. old Medicare cards | Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

  • New Medicare ID numbers are 11 characters long. 

The new card will feature several changes from the old, according to CMS.gov. This is what you can expect on your new card with the MBI number replacing the HICN number. The MBI will be:

  • Recognizably different from the HICN and RRB number
  • 11 characters long
  • Made up only of numbers and uppercase letters (no special characters)

Next: Will your benefits change?  

6. New cards, new benefits?

New card same medicare

The cards are new, but the benefits will remain the same. | Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

  • There will be no changes to your Medicare benefits. 

Luckily, the MBI number will not involve any changes to actual Medicare benefits, according to CMS.gov. Recipients of the new cards can use them right away and the effective date will be when each beneficiary was or is eligible for Medicare. Once you get your new card with the MBI, you can enroll in a Medicare health or drug plan.

Next: New tools

7. Use these to look up your new card number

Man holding new medicare card

Man holding new Medicare card | Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

  • There will be a 21-month transition period.

Secure lookup tools — that allow quick access to your new card number — are available to healthcare providers, suppliers, and beneficiaries, according to CMS. The organization has also implemented a 21-month transition period for healthcare providers and suppliers to use either the old or new card numbers.

Next: Don’t get scammed

8. Tips to help you avoid fraud

Avoid phone scams

Medicare recipients should watch out for phone scams. | Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

  • You do not have to pay for your new Medicare card. 

As the new Medicare cards are being mailed, it’s important to look out for scams, according to CMS. Follow these tips:

  • Remember that Medicare will never contact you for your card number or other personal information.
  • Your new Medicare card is free — if anyone calls you and says you need to pay for it, it’s a scam.
  • Always safeguard your card.
  • Give your new card number only to doctors, pharmacists, other healthcare providers, or your insurers.

Read more: Here’s What Early Retirees Love to Drive to Save More Money

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