The new Medicare cards are on their way to consumers, a process that includes giving users of the health payment service numbers that differ from their Social Security accounts — which could reduce identify theft.
The Federal Trade Commission previously announced that the cards would be mailed out this spring. On Tuesday (May 8), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a federal agency that is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the cards are being mailed in “geographic waves.”
Those mailings have started in some Eastern states, including Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, according to the agency. All other states are awaiting the start of card mailings, and there was no further information about when those would begin.
The new cards include a person’s “new, unique, personalized Medicare Number, known as the Medicare Beneficiary Identifier,” the agency said.
The cards are being mailed automatically and with no charge to Medicare participants. Mailings are scheduled to last until April 2019. The federal government has requested that Medicare participants shred their old ones immediately. That said, those users should keep their separate Medicare Advantage cards because they will be needed for treatment.
“The new Medicare cards no longer contain a person's Social Security number, but rather a unique, randomly-assigned Medicare number that protects people's identity, helps reduce fraud and offers better safeguards of important health and financial information,” the agency said in a statement. The new cards also makes it harder for criminals to use Social Security numbers to falsely bill Medicare for care services and benefits that were never performed.”
People with Medicare and their caregivers can visit medicare.gov/newcard to find out when cards will be mailed to their areas. “People with Medicare should guard their new card like it is a credit card and only give their Medicare Number to people they know should have it,” the agency said.