So your neighbor got a brand-new red-white-and-blue Medicare card with a new number, and you didn’t get one.
Just be patient: Your card probably isn’t lost or stolen, and the long wait is just about over if you live in Nebraska and Iowa. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is mailing cards in the two states now through the end of July.
Your new card — paper, like the old one — will have a randomly generated number that’s different from your Social Security number, and that’s the point. Old Medicare cards carry Social Security numbers, and that has resulted in identity theft and fraud, said Julie Brookhart, a spokeswoman for the agency’s regional office in Kansas City, Missouri.
But even the new-card process is sparking some confusion, said Cynde McCall, director of health access at Methodist Health System.
Some people have called the hospital wondering whether they can still get services with their old card, she said. The answer: The old cards are good through the end of 2019, but you should use the new card as soon as you get it.
One woman called Methodist to report that someone called her and said he was working for Medicare and needed some information so she could receive her new card quickly. When he started asking questions, she hung up.
That person was a scammer, McCall said, looking for Social Security numbers or other vital information that could be used to steal personal information and, eventually, money.
Brookhart said if someone calls about a new card, it’s a scam. Medicare doesn’t call people, especially about the new cards, which are free. You don’t need to do anything to get your new card, and you can’t do something to get it faster.
To give people new Medicare numbers and end the Social Security number risk, Congress passed a law in 2015. Mailings started in April to the 60 million people who qualify for Medicare, with the “third wave” of mailings now headed for 335,000 people in Nebraska, 585,000 in Iowa and people in nine other states.
You can check on the status of your new card or update your mailing address by opening an account at mymedicare.gov, but you don’t have to.
If you see your new card on your website account, you can print that out and use it instead of waiting for one in the mail. You’re also welcome to laminate the card, as long as it remains legible to medical providers or insurers.
Or you can just wait. If you’re in Nebraska and Iowa and don’t get a card by the end of July, you can call 1-800-633-4227 and find out what’s holding things up.
But don’t call now, Brookhart said.
Once you get a card, the agency says, you should black out the number on your old one and destroy it. But if you have cards for Medicaid, Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D, keep them. The new card doesn’t change your benefits, and you can use it as soon as you get it.
To follow mailing progress, go to Medicare.gov/NewCard . You also can ask the website to send you an email message when your card is in the mail, but you don’t have to.