One of the basic rules of protecting yourself from ID theft is to avoid carrying your Social Security card in your wallet or purse, but for millions of Americans on Medicare that’s been a difficult rule to follow, since Medicare prints the number on its medical ID card.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced it would issue new cards coming this spring that replace the Social Security number with a randomly-assigned Medicare Beneficiary Identifier. The agency will spend the next year training providers on how to use the new numbers.
“We’re taking this step to protect our seniors from fraudulent use of Social Security numbers, which can lead to identity theft and illegal use of Medicare benefits,” CMS administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. “We want to be sure that Medicare beneficiaries know about these changes well in advance and have the information they need to make a seamless transition.”
Nearly 58 million Americans will get the new cards, and there will be a 21-month transition period during which providers can use either the MBI or the Social Security number to make claims.
Seniors should treat their new card numbers as carefully as they would any other sensitive financial account numbers.
Medical ID theft, in which thieves steal your Social Security number and health insurance info in order to fraudulently obtain medical services or treatment is growing quickly in the private insurance markets as well.
More than 2.5 million Americans age 65 and older were victims of identity theft in 2014, an increase of about 24 percent from 2012.