Medicare

Why You Shouldn't Keep Your Medicare Card in Your Wallet

The cards still display Social Security numbers, and that won't change for a couple more years. Here's a workaround.

Question: My Medicare card still has my Social Security number on it. I know it's a bad idea to keep anything that displays my Social Security number in my wallet. Wasn't the government supposed to stop putting Social Security numbers on Medicare cards?

Answer: ID thieves can do a lot of damage if they get your Social Security number, which is why we recommend that you don't carry your Social Security card or number in your wallet. But Medicare beneficiaries are in a tough spot because SSN-based health claim numbers still appear on their Medicare cards. President Obama signed a law in April 2015 requiring the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to remove SSNs from Medicare cards, but the change is being implemented gradually: CMS will start sending the new cards in April 2018, but it will take until April 2019 before SSNs are removed from all cards.

Under the new system, a randomly generated 11-character Medicare Beneficiary Identifier will replace the SSN-based health claim number on your new Medicare card. You'll get information in 2018 letting you know about the new Medicare card, with an explanation of how to use the new card and what to do with your old one. You can start using your new Medicare card with the new number as soon as you receive it, and there should be a transition period in 2018 and 2019 when you can use either the old card or the new card. Keep an eye on this information page from Medicare for updates.

Changing the health claim numbers for all Medicare beneficiaries is a big undertaking, and Medicare isn't issuing any new cards without an SSN yet. But there are ways you can protect yourself until the new cards are issued. Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, recommends that you carry your Medicare card only when you visit a health care provider for the first time, so the provider can make a copy for its file. Otherwise, he recommends making a copy of your card with the last four digits of your Social Security number blacked out and keeping that in your wallet in case of an emergency.

Most Popular

Dying Careers You May Want to Steer Clear Of
careers

Dying Careers You May Want to Steer Clear Of

It’s tough to change, but your job could depend on it. Be flexible in your career goals – and talk with your kids about their own aspirations, because…
September 13, 2021
5 Top Dividend Aristocrats to Beef Up Your Portfolio
dividend stocks

5 Top Dividend Aristocrats to Beef Up Your Portfolio

The 65-member Dividend Aristocrats are among the market's best sources of reliable, predictable income. But these five stand out as truly elite.
September 14, 2021
7 Best Commodity Stocks to Play the Coming Boom
commodities

7 Best Commodity Stocks to Play the Coming Boom

These seven commodity stocks are poised to take advantage of a unique confluence of events. Just mind the volatility.
September 8, 2021

Recommended

Medicare Part A Funds to Run Out in 2026
Medicare

Medicare Part A Funds to Run Out in 2026

The trust fund for Medicare Part A did not significantly change from last year, though its financial position still remains precarious.
August 31, 2021
7 Things Medicare Doesn’t Cover
Healthy Living on a Budget

7 Things Medicare Doesn’t Cover

Medicare Part A and Part B leave some pretty significant gaps in your health-care coverage. Here's a closer look at what isn't covered by Medicare.
June 30, 2021
11 Costly Medicare Mistakes You Should Avoid Making
Medicare

11 Costly Medicare Mistakes You Should Avoid Making

If you don't make the right choices to fill in the health coverage gaps, you could end up with high Medicare premiums and big out-of-pocket costs.
June 30, 2021
10 Things You Must Know About Retiring to Florida
Making Your Money Last

10 Things You Must Know About Retiring to Florida

Heading South has always been a key to your retirement plan. If Florida is part of the plan, we offer up a few tips to help you find your way.
June 29, 2021