The healthcare industry and, specifically, Medicare, is a boon for fraudsters, scammers and would-be identity thieves from all around the world.

One primary reason for this trend is the age of Medicare enrollees. With the eligibility age typically set at 65, the elderly are often targeted by — and fall victim to — the scams and tricks perpetrated by others.

But Medicare patients have a valuable asset on their side: the Medicare industry itself. With tens of billions of dollars lost annually to fraud, it’s in their best interest to put an end to the problem — or at least minimize its impact — as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Receiving the New Card

Medicare patients won’t notice much of a difference with their new card. Recipients don’t even have to sign up for a new card or specifically request one. The entire process is handled internally, which makes it easy for new and existing patients alike.

The new cards even boast the signature red, white and blue color scheme of the older versions. Perhaps the most notable difference comes in the amount of information included on each card.

Instead of showing the recipient’s Social Security number, the new Medicare cards contain a randomized number that is unique to each patient. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CMS, this move is a direct attempt to fight fraud on the frontlines.

Unfortunately, some of the more cunning fraudsters and identity thieves already have a scam involving the new cards. To avoid these tricks, keep the following tips in mind:

  • The new Medicare card is free to all patients — there is no charge associated with the card whatsoever.
  • Officials with Medicare will never contact you and ask for personal information without your prior consent.

Many of the battles against Medicare fraud require effort from the patients themselves, but Medicare officials hope to change that. The new cards aren’t an end-all solution to the problem, but they are a step in the right direction.

Reducing Fraud on a Long-Term Basis

Although the new cards present some unexpected problems and new cases of fraud, officials are confident they’ll ultimately reduce fraud on a long-term basis. Replacing the Social Security number with a randomized Medicare number is a strong start, but individual patients can bolster their security even further in several ways:

  • Patients should protect their unique Medicare numbers at all costs. While it doesn’t give identity thieves’ access to as much as a Social Security or credit card number, it is still confidential information you should only share with doctors, pharmacists and primary healthcare providers.
  • Patients should carry their card with them at all times. Not only does this minimize the chance of it falling into the wrong hands, but they must have it whenever they need care — even if they have a Medicare Advantage Plan and the corresponding ID card.
  • Patients should destroy their old cards as soon as they receive the new ones. For best results, burn the document within a fire pit or cut it with a paper shredder.

While the new Medicare cards provide significant protection against the most common forms of Medicare fraud, individual patients still share the responsibility of keeping their information safe and out of the hands of would-be identity thieves, con artists or fraudsters.

Achieving Greater Security With the Same Coverage

The new cards won’t prompt any sweeping changes amongst medical or health care providers — for now.

Officials with Medicare are adamant that current plans, coverage and benefits will stay the same, and patients won’t have to pay extra fees for the updated credentials.

Assuming they remain true to their word, it’s a winning situation for providers, their patients and the entire healthcare industry.

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Kayla Matthews is a Pittsburgh native with a passion for personal productivity, business efficiency, and technological advances in the healthcare field. She's written for various influential publications such as Medical Economics, Contagion Live, HITECH Answers, and CareCloud. To see more of her bylines, please visit her LinkedIn profile or read her tech productivity blog, Productivity Bytes.

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