Q. I understand that new Medicare cards are being mailed. Can BBB advise the expected dates for the delivery of the new card?
A. Yes, your new Medicare card is coming! Here's BBB's advice:
The good news is that Medicare is issuing new cards for all recipients, and the new cards will not have Social Security numbers on them. The bad news: A survey by AARP indicated that there is a lot of misunderstanding about the card-replacement process on the part of Medicare beneficiaries.
1) Why the change?
As stated above and most important; the new cards will no longer have Social Security numbers imprinted on them — a real advantage for thwarting identity theft. Social Security numbers are highly valued by thieves. The new cards have 11-character, randomly assigned numbers that have no connection to your other personal data. The cards are printed on paper. This is easier for providers to use and make copies.
2) What do you have to do?
The short answer is: nothing. As long as your address has not changed, the new card will come to you. If you do need to update an address change, visit your Social Security account website and make the change there. There is no charge for the new card.
3) When does the new card go out?
The card will be mailed out to recipients in Tennessee and Georgia starting in June 2018 and continue through June of 2019. The huge number of cards to be mailed means the process will take time. Remember that your card may not come at the same time as your friend or neighbor's.
4) To carry or not to carry?
The advice has always been that you not carry your card with you because of the Social Security number. That will no longer apply. Nevertheless, you may be smart to continue not carrying the new card after your initial visit to register it with your physician or health care provider. Doctors' offices will also have the ability to look up your new number at an online site. Be sure to destroy your old card once you receive the new card.
5) What to watch out for?
As is always the case, scammers are seeking ways to make money off of this transition period. There have been reports of crooks impersonating Medicare personnel and calling to request Social Security numbers or bank account numbers. They are threatening to cancel Medicare benefits if the information is not provided.
Anyone who telephones or emails you claiming to be from Medicare is fraudulently lying. The Federal Trade Commission states no one from Medicare will contact you except through the U.S. Mail. (Another reason to make sure your current address is correct.)
Another reminder that you should never give out personal information to anyone over the phone or email that you do not know. Unless you have contacted them, and know that they are legitimate, tell them nothing. Should anyone call you asking for such information, simply hang up.
For answers to any other questions or concerns regarding the new Medicare card, visit www.medicare.gov/NewCard or www.bbb.org.
Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.