Thursday, April 23, 2015

Government to Slowly Remove SSN’s from Medicare Cards

In a previous blog article I complained about Medicare’s inclusion of my complete Social Security number (SSN) on my Medicare identification card. See, Your Medicare Card: What does the letter after the SSN mean? (February 3, 2013).
Here was my complaint -
Another good question is: why does the government keep showing social security numbers on the Medicare cards we have to carry and use so often, given the serious threat of identity theft? Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer for that. 
I do understand that changing to a new numbering system would cost the government some money and require reissuance of over 50 million cards. But exposing Medicare beneficiaries to an increased risk of identity theft is just unacceptable. Wouldn’t it be nice if Congress required a change in this dangerous practice as part of any upcoming changes to the Medicare program?  
Well, Congress has now addressed the problem. Section 501(a) of the recently enacted “doc fix” law - The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 – mandates that the “Social Security account number (or derivative thereof) is not displayed, coded, or embedded on the Medicare card issued to an individual who is entitled to benefits . . .”
Thank you Congress!
Now for the bad news. The law gives Medicare up to four years to start issuing cards with new identifiers to new Medicare beneficiaries. And it gives Medicare an additional four years to reissue cards held by current beneficiaries. 
This means current beneficiaries (like me) may have to wait for up to 8 years to get a Medicare ID card that does not include my SSN. That is a heck of a long time.
What should you do while you are waiting (for up to 8 years) for your new safer Medicare ID card. For myself, I’m going to continue to follow the suggestion I made in my earlier post:  
In the meantime, we are stuck with seeking other ways protecting our identity and privacy. Personally, I don’t carry my original Medicare card. I carry a photocopy from which I have removed the social security number.  I give my social security number verbally to the health care provider at the time I present a photocopy of the card and request services.
Not a perfect plan, I’ll admit. But, at least it may help protect me if my wallet gets lost or stolen.
Further Reading:
Your Medicare Card: What does the letter after the SSN mean?, Marshall Elder and Estate Planning Blog, February 2, 2013
New Cards for Medicare Recipients Will Omit Social Security Numbers, Robert Pear, New York Times, April 20, 2015

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