The U.S. government will begin mailing new Medicare ID cards to all Medicare recipients this month to help better protect their identities. The new Medicare ID card will replace the existing red, white and blue card, and will feature a new Medicare number that is unique to each recipient.
"Medicare currently uses the Social Security number of the patient on the ID cards," says Dave Hargarten, a senior marketing and communications specialist with Sharp Community Medical Group. "This change addresses concerns that patients are vulnerable to identity theft if their wallet or purse is lost or stolen when they are carrying their Medicare ID cards."
Medicare recipients are encouraged to make sure their mailing address information is up to date with the Social Security Administration to ensure that they will receive their new ID card. California Medicare recipients can expect to receive their new card between April 2018 and April 2019.
According to Benjamin Aragon, manager of Medicare business development at Sharp Health Plan, it is important to note that the new Medicare ID card is not a replacement for a health insurance ID card. Patients should present their health insurance ID card when they see their doctor.
"Your coverage and benefits will stay the same," Aragon says. "Keep both your Medicare and health insurance ID cards in a safe place." Once you get your new Medicare ID card, start using it right away, and destroy your old Medicare ID card.
It is important to remember that Medicare will never ask for your personal information to receive a new Medicare number and card. If a caller asks you for personal information or money, or threatens to cancel your health benefits if personal information is not given, the call should immediately be reported to Medicare as fraud.
*Update: All California Medicare recipients should have received their new cards by the end of July 2018. Learn more at Medicare.gov.
For more information, or to report possible fraud, call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE, or visit medicare.gov. Sharp Health Plan members should contact Sharp Health Plan Customer Care at 1-855-562-8853 (TTY users should call 711) with questions.