Medicare enrollees will receive brand-new cards that replace their Social Security numbers with unique IDs, the Trump administration said Thursday, hoping to crack down on the type of identity theft and fraud that’s soaking the federal insurance program.
Officials said the government will begin mailing out new cards to the program’s 58 million enrollees in April. They plan to finish up by 2019.
Medicare covers Americans over age 65 and younger people with disabilities.
Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said for too long, elderly recipients in the program have been an easy target for people who use their Social Security numbers to steal identities and bilk taxpayers by filing fraudulent claims.
Recipients will get new Medicare IDs consisting of 11 numbers and upper-case letters, so they have a personally unique code tied to their benefits.
“This is going to help our beneficiaries fight identify theft, keep taxpayer dollars safe and always keep the needs of patients first,” Ms. Verma said.
Congress, hoping to crack down on rampant fraud, passed a law in 2015 requiring CMS to replace the cards within four years.
Although new cards won’t go out until spring, Ms. Verma said it was important to get the word out now, because Medicare recipients are set to receive handbooks that explain their annual benefits.
The push also coincides with a new ad campaign in which CMS urges Medicare recipients to “guard your card, just like your credit card.”
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