By Camilita Aldridge
Area Agency on Aging For Southwest Florida
If you are over age 65, an important piece of mail may be headed to your mailbox. Starting this week, new Medicare cards are on the way to millions of Floridians and residents of four other Southern states. The new red, white and blue paper card will not only look different, but it will also provide you with a new Medicare ID number.
Your new Medicare ID will be a unique combination of 11 numbers and letters, designed to cut down on potential fraud and identity theft. Until recently, Social Security numbers doubled as Medicare ID numbers, opening the door to potential identity theft and other forms of fraud. In fact, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services estimates that a whopping $60 million was lost to Medicare fraud and abuse in 2016.
But new Medicare cards do not make us immune to fraud. Scammers have been taking advantage of the situation. Some are reaching out to seniors, pretending to be Medicare representatives and asking to “verify their information.” Other con artists are calling beneficiaries and asking for payment to “process their new cards.” Do not be fooled.
To help fight Medicare scams, heed the following advice: Medicare will never call you uninvited and ask for personal information, so if someone calls you and asks for your Medicare number, do not provide it. Medicare cards, which are free, are being sent to you automatically from the Social Security Administration. Do not believe anyone who tells you that you need to pay a fee or file any special paperwork. And once you get your new Medicare card, you should destroy your old one. Additionally, beneficiaries now have the option to laminate the new paper cards, as the signature line has been removed.
Finally, do not be concerned if you do not receive your card the same day as your friends, family or neighbors. With approximately 4.1 million Medicare beneficiaries in the state of Florida alone, it may take time for you to get your card. Most Florida cards should be delivered by October. To make things easier, you can ask Medicare to send you an email alert when your card is in the mail. You may make that request by visiting www.Medicare.gov/newcard and signing up for updates.
If you have questions about Medicare, your new card or your Medicare benefits, contact the Area Agency on Aging’s SHINE program for help. The SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) Program provides free, unbiased counseling for Medicare beneficiaries. SHINE, which is administered through the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, helps tens of thousands of beneficiaries in our state every year.
SHINE is also the state’s Senior Medicare Patrol provider. SHINE counselors can help you identify Medicare fraud and report scams if you suspect that you are being targeted. You can reach the SHINE program by calling the toll-free Elder Helpline at 866-413-5337 (866-41-ELDER) or by visiting www.FloridaSHINE.org.