New cards on way

Medical ID theft still a danger

Posted: March 7, 2018 at 2:55 a.m.

Health-care fraud and identity theft are on the rise, and the No. 1 target is senior citizens. For that reason, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is removing Social Security numbers from all Medicare cards and replacing them with new numbers that are unique to each Medicare recipient.

These new Medicare cards will be mailed out between April 2018 and April 2019. They should start arriving in Arkansas after June 2018.

While the new cards will go a long way toward protecting seniors from identity theft, the Arkansas Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) warns that the danger of medical identity theft remains.

Medical identity theft occurs when someone uses an individual's name and personal identity to fraudulently receive health-care services or treatments, medical equipment, and/or prescription drugs. If your new Medicare number is stolen, the thief will still be able to use it to fraudulently bill Medicare for services or products that were never provided.

In other words, even without your Social Security number, your new Medicare card is still the most valuable credit card in your wallet. Moreover, unlike credit card fraud, medical identity theft is generally associated with significant financial consequences for the victim.

The new Medicare number will continue to be a sought-after commodity that will need to be protected. Scams surrounding receipt of the new card are also inevitable.

Medicare recipients need to keep their numbers private, and should never give personal information to anyone who calls on the phone, claiming to be from Medicare. That's a scam. Medicare will never call you, and will never ask for your Medicare number.

There will be no charge for the new cards or changes to your benefits. New Medicare cards will be mailed out to you automatically from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Please make sure your address is correct with Social Security. Medicare recipients do not have to do anything to receive the new card!

Warnings and advice like this are exactly what the Arkansas SMP extends to seniors statewide. The Senior Medicare Patrol is a national, federally funded grant project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living, with SMP programs in every state that are monitored by the U.S. Office of Inspector General.

As program director for the Arkansas Department of Human Services SMP program, I am committed to educating Arkansas seniors about the steps they can take to avoid becoming victims of medical identity theft. Top on the list, of course, is reading their explanation of benefits letters as carefully as they read their bank statements or credit card statements.

The Arkansas Senior Medicare Patrol conducts educational presentations across the state that discuss ways for seniors to recognize and report suspicious billing on their Medicare Summary Notices and to protect their Medicare number and personal information. These programs alert seniors to the latest scams, teach them fraud prevention techniques, and provide them with tools to protect both their identity and their wallet.

Schedule a Senior Medicare Patrol presentation in your area by calling the Arkansas SMP at (866) 726-2916.


Kathleen Pursell has been the program director for the Arkansas Senior Medicare Patrol since 2012.

Editorial on 03/07/2018