WASHINGTON (AP) --
Medicare cards are getting a makeover to fight identity theft.
No more Social
Security numbers plastered on the card. Next April, Medicare will begin
mailing every beneficiary a new card with a unique new number to identify
increasingly targeting people age 65 and older for medical identity theft,"
Medicare chief Seema Verma told The Associated Press. "We are committed to
revealing the cards' new design on Thursday as the government gears up for a
massive transition that will involve coordination with 58 million
beneficiaries and their family members, plus hospitals, doctors, insurance
companies, pharmacies and state governments.
While the first
mailings of new cards begin next April, Congress has set an April 2019
deadline for all beneficiaries to have received one.
One goal is to make
sure seniors know what's coming so they're not confused by the change -- and
in the meantime, are reminded to guard their old cards that, if lost or
stolen, can leave them vulnerable to financial and legal consequences. The
government recorded 2.6 million cases of identity fraud involving seniors in
2014, up from 2.1 million in 2012.
Verma said one
woman reported her Medicare card was stolen, got a replacement and thought
no more about it until two years later when she learned she might be
arrested: The thief had impersonated her to get opioid painkillers.
Medicare has set up
a website --
www.cms.gov/newcard -- and is
beginning ads to tell beneficiaries what to expect starting next spring.
Medicare will automatically mail beneficiaries their new card. They'll be
instructed to destroy their old cards after they get a new one. New cards
may be used right away.
already have stopped using Social Security numbers on ID cards.
While the Medicare
change is crucial for seniors, the transition period also is a time when
crooks may pounce, warned AARP's Amy Nofziger, a fraud prevention expert.
"If anyone calls
you to say you need to pay for your new Medicare card, it is a scam," she
said. "If anybody is calling you and asking you to verify your Social
Security number in order to issue your new Medicare card, it is a scam."