Posted by: Heinz Brisske

You just turned 65 and you’ve received your Medicare Card. The card has your Medicare ID number printed on it, and it instructs you to carry the card with you at all times. You immediately notice that your Medicare ID number is identical to your Social Security Number (SSN). How can you protect yourself?

We are constantly warned not to carry our SSN around with us, because if it is lost or stolen then we might be victims of identity theft, yet here is the U.S. government virtually mandating that we carry our SSN at all times.

Unfortunately, the Medicare ID is more than an identifier; it’s proof of insurance. You will need to show your Medicare card at the doctor’s office and the hospital in order to have Medicare pay for treatment. So, what to do?

Protect Your Card
AARP suggests that you not carry your Medicare card at all because it’s not necessary. Your healthcare providers probably already have your information in their electronic systems and know how to bill you.

You will, however, need your actual Medicare card the first time you visit a new health care provider. That provider will need to make a photocopy of it for their files.

If you feel more comfortable carrying your Medicare card with you at all times, you may want to follow the recommendation of the Privacy Rights Clearing House, a national consumer resource on identity theft. It recommends that you make a photocopy of your card, obliterate the last four digits of your SSN on the photocopy, and then cut the copy down to wallet size and carry it in place of your actual card.

Lost or Stolen Cards
If your Medicare card does happen to get lost or stolen, you can get a replacement by calling the Social Security Administration at (800)772-1213. You can also apply for a new card online or go to your local Social Security office.

If a theft of your Medicare card occurs, you will need to watch out for Medicare fraud. Check your quarterly Medicare summary notices for services or supplies you did not receive and, if you spot anything suspicious or wrong, call the Inspector General’s fraud hotline at (800)447-8477.

If you need help identifying Medicare fraud, you can contact your state’s Senior Medicare Patrol program. Contact information is available on the program’s website, or you can call (877)808-2468.