The Lowdown on the New Medicare Cards: Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Starting May of this year, new Medicare cards are being mailed to nearly 60 million people who receive benefits across America, Pennsylvania Medicare enrollees included. Medicare will mail your new card at no cost to the address you have on file with the Social Security Administration.

Why change the current Medicare cards?

Congress mandated the card update to make Medicare cards more secure. The new cards will help protect your identity and reduce medical and financial fraud. Incidents of identity theft among seniors have increased nearly 25 percent, from 2.1 million during 2012 to 2.6 million during 2014.

What changed?

Each of the new Medicare cards includes a unique, 11-character Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) to replace the previous Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN), which was based on the beneficiary’s Social Security Number.

The new cards are still be red, white, and blue, but they don’t include a Social Security Number, gender, signature, or any other personal information that could put the beneficiary’s identity at risk. The new cards are paper, not plastic like the current cards, which will make them easier for many providers to use and copy, and save taxpayers a lot of money. Plus, you can print your own replacement card if you need one.

Here is what your new card will look like:

What else do I need to know?

Your new card will automatically be sent to you. You don’t need to do anything as long as your address is up to date.

You can start using your new identification right away and none of your benefits will change. AARP also notes that beneficiaries who are covered under a Medicare Advantage plan will still need to use that plan’s card when getting medical services. The same is true for those who get their medications through a Part D prescription drug plan.

All new enrollees will automatically receive the new card. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) was scheduled to send the new cards to Medicare enrollees in Pennsylvania from May 2018 through June 2018.

If you haven’t yet received your card, the CMS web page includes a map that tracks the progress of the card rollout in each state.

Things to keep in mind during this process:

Mailing takes time: Your card may arrive at a different time than your friend’s or neighbor’s.

Destroy your old Medicare card: Once you get your new Medicare card, destroy your old Medicare card and start using your new one right away.

Guard your card: Only give your new Medicare Number to doctors, pharmacists, other health care providers or their staff, your insurers, or people you trust to work with Medicare on your behalf. Medicare will never call you uninvited and ask you to give us personal or private information to get your new Medicare Number and card. Scam artists may try to get personal information (like your current Medicare Number) by contacting you about your new card.

If someone asks you for your information, for money, or threatens to cancel your health benefits if you don’t share your personal information, hang up and call CMS at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Keep your new card with you: Carry your new card and, should they request it, show it to your health care providers when you need care.

Your doctor knows it’s coming: Doctors, other health care facilities, and providers will ask for your new Medicare card, if they need to see it, when you need care.

You can find your number: If you forget your new card, your doctor, health care provider, or their staff may be able to look up your Medicare Number online.

Keep your Medicare Advantage Card: If you’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO), your Medicare Advantage Plan ID card is your main card for Medicare. You should still keep and use it whenever you need care. However, you also may be asked to show your new Medicare card so you should carry this card, too.

Help is available: If you don’t get your new Medicare card by April 2019, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048.