Between April 2018 and April 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services (CMS) mailed out newly designed Medicare cards to all enrolled beneficiaries. The original card was modified to make it more secure and to protect the identity of all Medicare beneficiaries from fraudulent use.

The initial transition period that took place from 2018 to 2019 provided scammers with a perfect opportunity to get personal information, and even money, from unsuspecting Medicare enrollees. While this sort of scamming has cooled down a bit, you should still be aware of what to watch out for. Also, it is important to know what the new cards look like, what information they contain, how to use it, and who to trust with the information.

If you were already enrolled in Medicare before April 2019, you should have your new card by now. If you are close to 65 or eligible for Medicare for another reason, your new card will be sent to you automatically. New Medicare cards are sent out three months before the month of a person’s 65th birthday. If you are waiting to get your Medicare benefits card but have not received it before your 65th birthday, be sure to contact your local Social Security Administration office or call a local CMS office.

What does the new Medicare card look like?

Your new Medicare card has a similar look to the old card that was phased out in 2019. Red and blue highlights and blue and black letters and numbers are printed on white paper. Paper is still used so it is easier for providers to make photocopies of it.

The major change made to the new card is that your Social Security number is no longer on the card. Your Social Security number is no longer used as your Medicare claim or identification number. Your new card uses a unique number called your Medicare beneficiary identifier (MBI). This identifier is a combination of letters and numbers. You use this number whenever you visit a health care provider, hospital, or other medical facility.

The information that is printed on the face of your new card is: your full name, your MBI, the Medicare benefits programs you are enrolled in, and the dates that your coverage begins for each program. You should have your new card with you whenever you are away from home or when you visit a health care provider, hospital, or other medical facility.

If you have a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan or a separate prescription drug (Part D) plan, you have separate identification cards for these plans. You may need to present your Original Medicare identification card together with the MA or Part D cards when you receive care as well.

How can you avoid Medicare scams?

When the new cards first began replacing the old, scammers were calling Medicare enrollees and impersonating CMS or SSA personnel. In many cases they asked for personal information and even processing fees for the new cards.

Many people are unaware of the fact that neither the CMS nor the SSA would ever ask for personal information over the phone. Also, there was, and still is, no charge for the new Medicare cards or for replacement cards.

Although there are fewer cases of this sort of scam now, it is advisable to be wary. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the CMS or the SSA, tell that person you will call the administration back directly. Then, hang up, look up the official phone number for the administration and call them. Let them know that someone called you asking for information about your personal identity.

If you still have your old Medicare identification card, destroy it by cutting it up or putting it through a shredder. Do not give your Medicare identification card, or any information on it, to anyone you do not trust.

You can find out more about the new Medicare identification cards by asking a representative at a local CMS or SSA office.

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