Rampant fraud prompts changes to Medicare

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is readying a fraud prevention initiative that removes Social Security numbers from Medicare cards to help combat identity theft, and safeguard taxpayer dollars.

The new cards will use a unique, randomly-assigned number called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier, replacing the often targeted Social Security-based ‘Health Insurance Claim Number’ currently used on every Medicare card. Tentative plans call for the new card to be mailed in April 2018, meeting the congressional deadline for replacing all Medicare cards by April 2019.

“We’re taking this step to protect our seniors from fraudulent use of Social Security numbers, which can lead to identity theft and illegal use of Medicare benefits,” said administrator Seema Verma, speaking on behalf of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services “We want to be sure that Medicare beneficiaries and healthcare providers know about these changes well in advance and have the information they need to make a seamless transition.”


Providers and beneficiaries will both be able to use secure look up tools intended to support quick access to Medicare Beneficiary Identifiers when needed.. There will also be a 21-month transition period where providers will be able to use either the new Identifiers or the old Health Insurance Claim Numbers.

The removal of Social Security numbers and transition to Medicare Beneficiary Identifiers is an ambitious project, prompted by rampant fraud.

Personal identity theft affects a large and growing number of seniors. People age 65 or older are increasingly the victims of this type of crime. Incidents among seniors increased by half a million to 2.6 million by the end of 2014, according to the most current statistics from the Department of Justice.

Identity theft can take not only an emotional toll on those who experience it, but also a financial one: Two-thirds of all identity theft victims reported a direct financial loss. It can also disrupt lives, damage credit ratings and result in inaccuracies in medical records and costly false claims.

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