All new Medicare recipients receive their Medicare card in the mail either 3 months before their 65th birthday, or on the 25th month of receiving Social Security disability benefits. This red, white, and blue card is printed on paper and contains your name, your Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (your Medicare identification number), all your coverage entitlements, and their starting dates.

As a Medicare recipient, you have your own unique Medicare identification number, which is no longer your Social Security number, as it was in the past. This is the number you will use for all Medicare transactions such as checking eligibility and claim status, billing and submitting claims.

It is important to keep your card safe and with you whenever you are away from home. In order to ensure that you get your Medicare benefits, you must show your card to your doctor, pharmacist, insurers, or other healthcare providers whenever you receive medical care.

Do not give your Medicare identification number to anyone other than those involved with your healthcare. Neither Medicare, nor the Social Security Administration will call you and ask you for your personal information. Do not fall prey to scammers making phone calls looking for information or asking for money. Keep yourself safe by hanging up and calling the administration back directly.

Will Your Medicare Benefits Number Change?

Normally your Medicare identification number does not change, but in 2015 the Medicare Access and CHIP Re-authorization Act was passed by the United States Congress. In order to protect Medicare beneficiaries from identity theft, Congress mandated that Medicare remove Social Security numbers from cards and administer new identification numbers.

With a set deadline of April 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) were lawfully required to remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards. CMS began mailing new Medicare cards with the new Medicare identification number to all Medicare recipients in April of 2018, giving themselves a year to reach all recipients.

The numbers Medicare uses now are called Medicare Beneficiary Identifiers (MBIs). This new number replaces the old Health Insurance Claims Number which will be totally phased out when the end of the transition period arrives on December 31, 2019.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) made the number change to protect people using Medicare from identity theft or illegal use of Medicare benefits.  Your new MBI has 11 characters that consist of numbers and capital letters. To avoid confusion, an MBI will not contain the letters S, L, O, I, B, or Z. This number is generated at random and has no hidden significance.

Although there are a few exceptions, you must use your new MBI to submit claims beginning on January 1, 2020.

If you have Medicare Advantage or a Medicare Part D prescription drug policy, you can use your old cards for those policies as you did previously. Because these types of policies are provided by private insurance companies, CMS regulations for new identification numbers do not apply.

What To Do If You Lose Your Medicare Card

If you lose or damage your Medicare card, you can go online to your personal account at the official Medicare website and print out a new one. You can also visit your local Social Security Administration office in person to get a replacement. If you suspect that someone else is using your MBI, or if your card is stolen, contact Medicare through their official toll-free number to report it and get a new card.

As Medicare recipients transition to their new cards and Medicare Beneficiary Identifiers, it is important to be aware of scammers looking for money or information. Just remember that there is no charge for your new Medicare card, you do not have to sign up for it, and it will be mailed to you automatically. Do not give any personal information to anyone asking for it over the phone.

By December 31, 2019, all Medicare beneficiaries should have their new card and should be ready to use their new identification number. If you have not received your card, or are not sure how to make the transition, contact Medicare or the Social Security Administration to get the information you need.

Related articles: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Medicare Part A