A practice that ended long ago in other parts of the healthcare industry has continued stubbornly into the 21st century in Medicare. Medicare cards that are issued to new beneficiaries continue to have the recipient’s Social Security number printed right on the front. Fortunately, this inadvisable practice will be coming to an end over the next few years. Learn more about how Medicare cards are changing in our blog.
No Social Security Numbers on New Medicare Cards
As part of the doc fix bill that was signed by President Obama (and ends the long-derided SGR-based payment formula for Medicare doctors), the new law also ends the long-running practice of putting Medicare beneficiaries’ Social Security numbers on their Medicare cards.
Government watchdogs had been calling for the removal of Social Security numbers from Medicare cards for many years now. Almost all private health insurance companies had stopped using Social Security numbers to identify individuals. In addition, “The federal government even forbids private insurers to use the numbers on insurance cards when they provide medical or drug benefits under contract with Medicare,” according to the New York Times.
Still, Medicare continued the practice, putting millions of beneficiaries at risk of identity theft. A small minority unfortunately were victims of identity theft, which could have been prevented by the removal of the number.
Now, Medicare will begin the process of removing Social Security numbers from beneficiaries cards From the Times:
Medicare officials have up to four years to start issuing cards with new identifiers. They have four more years to reissue cards held by current beneficiaries. They intend to replace the Social Security number with “a randomly generated Medicare beneficiary identifier,” but the details are still being worked out.
The AARP and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare have both come out in favor of the new approach to Medicare cards.
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