Health

In April 2018, Medicare officials will begin sending out new health insurance cards that no longer include enrollees’ social security numbers.

The change is a big win for anti-fraud advocates. But there’s a catch. Nancy Gilmer Moore, with the Indiana Association of Area Agencies on Aging, said the transition to new cards provides an opportunity for scam artists to call Medicare enrollees and try to get them to verify their social security numbers over the phone.

She said Medicare will never call or email an enrollee. They only use mail to communicate changes.

“Be wary of anyone calling to say we need to confirm your number because of all the changes,” Moore said. “Opportunists take advantage in times of confusion.”

Jessica Miller, outreach coordinator with Kentucky Senior Medicare Patrol, said it took a while for Congress to allocate the money for the new cards. With almost a million Medicare enrollees in Kentucky alone, it’s a heavy lift. And like many people, Medicare recipients often carry their insurance cards in their wallets.

That habit, said Miller, puts people at risk for identity theft.

“It’s a habit for people to carry them around for fear of any kind of medical emergency, but it’s actually really important to protect that information,” she said.

“Social security numbers are really specific to each individual person. So once someone gets hold of that information, they really can do anything with it. It can be troublesome for your finances.”

Miller also said to look out for fake websites that can look legitimate and to be protective of personal information when talking on the phone.

“Know who you’re talking to,” she said. “If it’s someone that’s asking for your social security number, you want to know who that person is. So even if the phone says it’s from someone who you trust, you should probably call back on the number you know.”

The new cards will be distributed between April 2018 to April 2019. The old Medicare cards will stop working beginning in 2020.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.