According to Medicare.gov, identify theft is a serious crime that occurs when someone takes your personal information without your permission, in order to commit fraud or other crimes. Personal information might include things like your name, credit card number, or your Social Security number, or SSN.
The Office of the Inspector General reports that President Obama signed a bill in 2015 to protect seniors from identify theft by requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to give out new Medicare cards that don’t display a person’s SSN. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the initiative, called the Social Security Number Removal Initiative (SSNRI), is set to go into effect in 2019. Read more about the new Medicare card in the article below.
According to The New York Times, about 4,500 people sign up for Medicare every day, so this will new law will affect many people.
Why does Medicare use the Social Security number?
For a bit of background, the Medicare program was enacted in 1965 under Title XVIII of the Social Security Act by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Currently, Medicare uses the name and address you have on file with Social Security to supply the information on your Medicare card.
Here’s a little history about the Social Security number. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Social Security number (SSN) was created in 1936 in response to the passage of the Social Security Act in 1935. Originally, the number was used solely as a way to track the wages of American workers for the purpose of computing Social Security benefits under the law. Now, the simplicity and ease of use of the SSN is why it’s commonly used across government agencies and private businesses.
According to the Social Security Administration, a task force was created in 2006 to investigate identity theft. Because about 42 million Medicare cards display the full Social Security number (SSN), authorities feared that beneficiaries would be vulnerable to identity theft. Federal agencies have been recommending removal of the SSN for a number of years, and now the Department of Health and Human Services has until 2019 to issue new modernized Medicare cards to new beneficiaries and give out the new cards to those who already have existing Medicare cards.
How will the new Medicare card work?
The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) projects about 74 million people will be enrolled in the program by 2025. It will be a monumental task to develop a new Medicare identifier and issue new cards to all Medicare beneficiaries, but the law, which was passed in 2015, gave CMS four years to accomplish it.
The first step will be to implement the new identification number and new Medicare card with the non-Social Security number identifier for new enrollees. From there, CMS must issue a new Medicare card to every current enrollee by April 2019.
The new Medicare card will work exactly like the old one, but will safeguard private information of interest to identity thieves. If you are currently enrolled in Medicare, you’ll receive information directly from CMS about when to expect your new Medicare card.
What happens if your Medicare card is stolen or lost?
If your Medicare card is lost, stolen, or damaged, please ask Social Security about a new one. You should expect a new Medicare card within 30 days of your request; Social Security will mail the new card to your address on file.
If you need your Medicare card sooner, please request a letter (as proof you have Medicare) from Social Security; the letter should arrive in around 10 days. And if you need proof immediately, please visit your local Social Security office.
Do you have questions about Medicare plan options and/or your Medicare card? I’ll be happy to talk with you and provide answers. To get started, simply click the Get Quotes button to schedule a phone call or to request a personalized email.
For more information about the new Medicare card and how to protect yourself from identify theft, please see:
Office of the Inspector General, “Beyond the Numbers,” last modified April 29, 2015, https://oig.ssa.gov/newsroom/blog/apr29-medicare-card-SSN
Medicare.gov, “Identity theft: protect yourself,” last accessed September 16, 2016, https://www.medicare.gov/forms-help-and-resources/identity-theft/identity-theft.html