BREAKING NEWS

BREAKING NEWS

How To Get Your Medicare Card Or Replacement? Follow These Exciting Steps

Question: I am on Medicare, but my Medicare Card is very hard to read and worn out, what do I do? OR I am new to Medicare and I didn’t get a Medicare card. What do I do? OR I can’t find my Medicare card. What do I do?

Answer: These questions have been answered before, but I am covering this again because I have some NEW information to add. The beginning may sound like something you have read before, because you have, but it was a while ago. There is some NEW information that is pretty exciting.

These three statements with the questions after them are ones I hear often. The facts are the same: you are eligible for Medicare and need your Medicare card. How do you get a new one, a replacement one?

As you approach your 65th Birthday month, Medicare sends you information about their products and your paper Medicare card. This card is mailed to you from CMS (Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services).

Many of you may have had those Medicare cards a long time. Or maybe yours isn’t that old, but went through the wash, has gotten torn or is hard to read. Paper cards do not hold up as well in our wallets and to regular handling as well as a plastic card does.

Some of you have a different insurance card that you show more often than your Medicare card and you may have lost track of your paper card.

The result is the same, you need a replacement card. The solution is easy; you contact the Social Security Administration (SSA). This contact can be done a variety of ways, and once requested, SSA will send you a replacement Medicare card.

To contact SSA, you can either call 1-800-772-1213; go to their website, www.ssa.gov; or call the following local offices: Jamestown at 1-877-319-9182; or visit at 321 Hazeltine Ave. for Jamestown. Olean at 1-877-379-5773 or visit at Suite 6 at 175 North Union St., Olean, NY; or Dunkirk at 1-888-862-2139 or visit at Suite 2 at 437 Main St., Dunkirk. The local offices are open to the public Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Wednesday SSA is open 9 a.m. to noon.

If you are using the website, the process the first time may take a bit longer. There is an easy tool at the www.ssa.gov website that allows you to order this new card. But you must create a ‘my Social Security’ Account. Once this account is established you can log in and use this for many things, and ordering a new Medicare Card is just one of them. This Social Security Portal is similar to what many companies, banks, doctor’s offices and government agencies are using now. You create an ID and a password which then allows you to access your information 24 hours a day.

The SSA.gov website can also give you information about your actual benefits, your tax documents and many other questions you might have for the Social Security Administration. This ID and password is something you are going to want to remember (or put somewhere you can find it when you don’t remember). Now that you have created the ‘my Social Security’ account you can use the website to order your new Medicare card and many other things

Once you have ordered/requested this new Medicare card it takes about four weeks to receive it. Now that you have your Medicare card in hand, the second question people ask is can they laminate it? Yes, you can laminate your Medicare card. Be sure to sign it first, and then get it laminated. If you don’t have access to a laminating machine, or don’t want to pay for that, my second suggestion is to cover your Medicare card with clear packing tape. You know that wide clear tape we use to seal up boxes. Place your card on a flat surface and put the clear tape over it. Then do the same on the back. Trim the edges and you have a sturdier Medicare card.

I am often asked “why is this card still paper?” My answer is “I don’t know.” I do know this: Don’t worry about that paper card and keeping it perfect. If you ever lose it or it gets torn or mutilated, you can simply order a new one.

Now for the exciting NEW information! Medicare has listened to this question about a paper card AND the fact that it has identifying information on it. They have decided to issue NEW Medicare cards beginning April 2018. These new Medicare Cards will have an unique number assigned to only you. This new card with your new Medicare Number will come automatically in the mail beginning April 2018. Now obviously all Medicare recipients will not receive their card in April 2018. This will actually take one year to finish the issuing of the new cards. It will start April 2018 and take until April 2019 for everyone to receive his or her new cards. The change was designed to help protect your identity from fraud and theft. Once you receive your NEW card, you can put away your old paper Medicare card and begin to use the new card immediately. The new Medicare number assigned to just you will be what is called an ‘alpha-numeric” ID. This means it will be a combination of letters and numbers. Your current card is also that way, but it has more numbers with one or two letters. The new unique number assigned to you will be different (and maybe not as easy to remember). Since you probably won’t ‘remember’ your new ID card number you will definitely have to carry it with you.

This is probably a bigger change for providers, computer programmers and those types of situations. The traditional Medicare number was usually nine numbers followed by one or two letters. This means that all those computer programs are set up to accept that type of information. The number you will be issued probably won’t follow that exact pattern and therefore has required a change for those computers that talk to each other all the time about us and our healthcare.

It is important for everyone to remember that Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will send your ID automatically. You do NOT have to ask for it, consent to have it sent to you or talk with anyone over the phone about it. PLEASE DO NOT give out that information over the phone. DO NOT respond to a person or organization who says they will help get your new Medicare Card.

It is also important to remember that this new Medicare Card does NOT change your Medicare benefit in any way. If you have other insurance that you use, you will STILL GET a new Medicare Card. The sending of your new Medicare Card does not mean you lost your other insurance.

I know that talking about this new card in September, when it won’t happen until April may sound too early, but I like you to know things early so you are aware of what is happening in the future.

I want to reinforce some other issues. Many people tell you NOT to carry your Medicare card regularly. Your Medicare card has some pretty significant and important information on it. So carry your Medicare card when you go to Doctor appointments and planned hospital stays. If you wish, the rest of the time, you can leave your Medicare card at home in a safe place. That may help to reduce Medicare Fraud and identity theft. I also suggest not putting your Medicare card in a spot in your wallet where it can be seen unless you pull it out because someone requested it. Many of us have spots in our wallets that can be seen over your shoulder or in line in the store. Your Medicare card should NOT be in a spot like that.

So if your card is worn out, torn, dirty or hard to read, go ahead and order a new one. This is an important insurance card and your providers need to be able to read the information on it. Once you get the new card, protect it and keep it with you when you need it or in a spot in your wallet that is hidden to those looking over your shoulder.

This is true even with the NEW version coming out beginning in April of 2018. You need to have a useful card in the meantime.

I am excited about this change, but then I always get excited about Medicare! I am also curious about some things we don’t know yet. Will the cards be paper or plastic? Will they be the same size as the current card, or closer to the size of a typical credit card? Will they still have the red/white/blue strip? So many exciting things to think about?

As I learn more, I will certainly pass it along to you.

To contact Janell Sluga, GCMC with questions or concerns, please call 720-9797 or e-mail her at janells@lutheran-jamestown.org.

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