For months, Medicare has been telling beneficiaries to be on the lookout for their new cards.
Unlike that proverbial check, your card soon will be in the mail.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which runs the program, initially projected that New Yorkers would start receiving the cards in June. But it seems the bulk of the mailings will start in the next week. Since Medicare has more than 3 million people enrolled in New York, it’s likely to take weeks or months before everyone has theirs.
“There are a lot of variables involved,” said Gabriel Geiger, director of financial services for Lifespan of Greater Rochester, which provides nonmedical services to seniors and their caregivers. “Just because your neighbor got one today, doesn’t mean you’re going to get yours today or the next day. There’s no rhyme or reason as to when people are going to get it.”
Here’s what’s happening with Medicare cards:
New cards don’t use Social Security numbers, reducing the risk of identity theft. Instead, your Medicare identifier is a string of random letters and numbers. It’s still important to protect that identifier because in the wrong hands, it could be used for Medicare fraud.
The cards are supposed to go in the mail the week of July 23, according to a news release sent on behalf of CMS. Before rushing to the mailbox as though you’re looking to see if you won the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes, remember Geiger’s caution that it still could take awhile. Even though the cards don’t have your Social Security number, they are based on information from Social Security. If you’ve moved and haven’t updated your address, your card may be delayed.
As of June 25, cards would be mailed soon in New York and about two dozen other states, according to the website www.medicare.gov/newcard. Ken Carl of East Rochester, who has been tracking rollout of the new cards for several months, said neither he nor any of his friends have received theirs.
The website said mailing was complete in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and Delaware.
Yes. Your benefits are not affected if you have to use the old card for weeks or months, Geiger said.
Cut it up or shred it, Geiger said. Destroy the card to protect your personal information.
Avoid carrying your Medicare card unless you know your doctor’s office needs to see it. Be aware that scammers may try to weasel the new number out of you. Hang up on anyone who calls and asks if you’ve received the card, asks you any information about the card or threatens to cancel your benefits. Medicare will not call you to ask about the card. Carl said he occasionally receives a call about Medicare, and he said some seem to be pitches for Medicare Advantage plans. But he hangs up. "I'm not patient enough to talk to them anymore," he said.