Medicare is Finally Upgrading Your Card – Here’s Everything you Need to Know…

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This story was originally posted on April 26, 2017 and was last updated on September 26, 2017.

Be mindful of the new scams out there if you currently have Medicare. New Medicare cards are being mailed out and, along with them, new scams have started circulating. 

The most recent concern about new scams accompanying the new Medicare cards are suspicious phone calls and emails requesting your SSN in order to get your new card.

No legitimate agency will request sensitive information via phone calls or emails. Remember that there is no charge or fee for your new Medicare card and no information has to be confirmed in order for you to receive yours.

Another of the more recent scams involves mimicking the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS).

The MCBS itself is not a scam. It is a legit survey in which Medicare partnered with NORC at University of Chicago to invite 16,000 randomly-selected beneficiaries to voluntarily participate. Those selected will receive a letter and a brochure from NORC, and can choose whether to partake or not. 

The MCBS will not contact you by phone for information, but will only send you a brochure or letter with information you can use to contact them. The latest scam involves a copycatting of the survey to get valuable information from Medicare recipients via phone. Scammers will call you and ask you for information, sometimes pretending to be the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) or Social Security Administration (SSA). But remember, the IRS and SSA will never call you for the information. 

To avoid this scam, do not answer phone calls from any suspicious numbers. Instead, let the phone go to voicemail/answering machine. You can always call Medicare at 1-800-633-4227 or visit www.mymedicare.gov to ask any questions regarding suspicious activity involving your personal information.

Sometimes the phone calls will continue in order to harass or exhaust the scam’s target into submission. If this happens, block the call or contact your telephone provider to report the activity and learn how you can stop them from reaching you.

Of course, this latest attempt is not the only scam regarding your new Medicare cards. So we’re sharing information that’s important to know.

Do not give your payment information or Medicare number (same as your social security number) to anyone who calls and threatens to cancel your benefits if you don’t provide your information. There is no cost for your new card, and Medicare will never call to verify your Medicare number.

We know that dealing with any changes or paperwork in your Medicare enrollment and benefits can be difficult. So we are here to help clarify what you need to do with the newly-upgraded Medicare cards.

First things first, what is the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization? MACRA, also referred to as the Social Security Number Removal Initiative (SSNRI), was signed by President Obama in 2015 and requires The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to remove Social Security Numbers from your Medicare cards by April 2019.

The new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) will replace the previous SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) on all Medicare cards. The MBI will be comprised of 11 characters, and made up of numbers and uppercase letters. Under the new system, CMS will assign a new MBI to each Medicare recipient and send out a new Medicare card by April 2019. MBIs will not have any effect on Medicare benefits. This will not cost you any out-of-pocket expenses.

You may be asking: Why is CMS changing from the HICN to the MBI? The National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association estimates that 3 percent of annual healthcare spending ends up going to fraud. Meanwhile others, such as the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, estimate that as much as 8 to 10 percent of annual spending goes to fraud. This new change will remove your social security number from the equation to help prevent identity theft and protect the privacy of health and financial information.

With healthcare fraud being such a prevalent issue in the United States today, it is important to make sure that you take all precautions when using something with personal information on it such as the current Medicare cards.

AARP’s fraud expert, Frank Abagnale (yes, of Catch Me if You Can fame), has recommended that you only carry your original card with you when you are on the way to a medical appointment. An easy alternative to carrying the card with you is to make a copy of your Medicare card and either black out or cut out all but the last four digits of you social security number on that copy of your card.

Some other basic ways to help prevent and watch for fraud include:

  • Never give out your Medicare or Social Security number (SSN) to get a free offer or a free gift.
  • Check all of your statements for services or equipment for errors, just like you would a credit card bill.
  • If you own a smart phone, protect it with a password, especially if you your personal information on it.
  • Do not give out any of your personal information over the phone, Internet, or mail unless you initiated the conversation about it.
  • You do not need to verify your SSN over the phone.
  • Safeguard the new card the same as you did with your previous card.

If you are contacted by someone who claims to be from Medicare or a financial institute, do not respond. Instead, make sure you contact them back on a number you know is correct and report what just happened.

While such tips should be significant in helping prevent insurance fraud, providers are still requesting that the CMS increase its outreach to physicians to inform them how the billing process will change. Providers will have to update their electronic health record (EHR) systems in order to accept the new MBIs. After the transition period, which will be from April 2018 through December 2019, doctors will have to update their EHR systems in order to accept the new MBIs’ billing system.

There is concern about doctors having to turn patients away if the EHR system isn’t updated or if the patient doesn’t know his or her new MBI number. It was suggested during a Health and Human Services Advisory Panel on Outreach and Education that the CMS create an online portal for providers to search the patient’s ID number if he or she does not have the card or ID number present.

The CMS plans to mail out the new cards with MBIs in April 2018. There will be a transition period from April 2018 to December 31, 2019, during which time providers can use MBIs or HICNs for transactions. The CMS last updated its website in late September 2016, when they indicated that they are updating systems and will reach out to help prepare everyone for their new Medicare cards prior to the cards being mailed out.

To sum things up for you, what do you have to do? It is simple. First, make sure your address is up-to-date. Then, patiently await your new Medicare card to arrive during April of 2018, and make sure to bring it with you whenever necessary for billing. If you don’t want to wait for the replacement form in the mail, you can request a replacement Medicare card.

If you suspect fraudulent activity or scams, you can report it here.

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Medicare World Editorial Team
The Medicare World editorial team works diligently to make sure our stories are informative, unbiased, and of utmost relevance to our readers. Our team of researchers and writers presents the best and latest information on all things Medicare, including legislation, enrollment rules, changes in coverage and costs, and health information. We enjoy keeping our readers up-to-date and helping them navigate the often-complicated Medicare maze.

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