Just when you think you know yourself, a new ID is coming your way.
The federal government is mailing out new Medicare cards to all 55 million Medicare beneficiaries.
That breaks down to roughly 2.3 million Floridians and 223,000 beneficiaries in Pinellas County.
Unlike the current cards, the new cards wonít have your Social Security number on them. Instead, there will be a unique, randomly generated 11-digit code of numbers and letters. Better to foil those scammers out there who are already starting to nibble at the new card mailing.
The mailing, mandated by Congress, started in April and will continue until April 2019. By then, according to April Washington, public affairs officer for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, everyone eligible should have a new red, white and blue card.
Cards for the majority of Florida beneficiaries will arrive between now and October, she said.
"The reason weíre doing this is that scams and fraud and identity theft are affecting a growing number of seniors," she said. "The moment they get the new card, they should destroy the old one."
Medicare members should make sure their address is current and correct, she added, noting that the new card and ID number wonít change a recipientís coverage or benefits.
Medicare recipients donít need to take any action to get the new Medicare card, and the new card is free, Washington said.
Medicare will not call or email you about your new card, but if you have any questions about your new card, you can contact Medicare, she emphasized.
The ID number on the new Medicare card should be protected just like the old one, Washington said. "Throughout Florida, CMS has received scattered reports of scammers contacting beneficiaries for their personal information as a requirement for getting the new card."
Only give your personal information to doctors, insurers or people acting on your behalf, she said.
AARP thinks new Medicare cards that donít include a Social Security number are a good idea. "Itís definitely a step in the right direction to fight identity theft," said Colleen Krepstekies, AARP assistant state director of communications.
She said the Federal Trade Commission received 13 million consumer complaints about identity theft between 2012 and 2016. "Thirty-seven percent of identity theft complaints come from the 60-plus population," she noted. "Older adults are more susceptible as they become Medicare eligible."
Contact Fred W. Wright Jr. at [email protected]