Medicare to No Longer Use Social Security Numbers as Policy Identifiers

Identity theft has been a valid concern for most of us. Not just online scams, but theft of postal mail of older Americans turned many watchdogs to prevention years ago. As a result, most private insurance companies discontinued the use of Social Security numbers as an identifier on policies and statements.

Medicare, however, has continued to display Social Security numbers on beneficiary’s cards and statements, even with harsh warnings from privacy advocates over the years. The New York Times reported in 2008 such warnings came from the Social Security Administration’s inspector general, Patrick P. O’Carroll:

Displaying [the Social Security number] on Medicare cards unnecessarily places millions of individuals at risk for identity theft,” Mr. O’Carroll said. “We do not believe a federal agency should place more value on convenience than the security of its beneficiaries’ personal information. — source: NY Times

Seven years later, this practice is about to change. United States President Barack Obama signed into law a bi-partisan Bill that includes measures to help reduce the risk of identity theft of Medicare recipients as Social Security Administration replaces the Medicare cards of its beneficiaries. This comes three years after a 2012 U.S. Congressional Joint Hearing on Removing Social Security Numbers from Medicare Cards.

The New York Times further reports, “Medicare officials have up to four years [before 2019] to start issuing cards with new identifiers. They have four more years [before 2023] to reissue cards held by current beneficiaries. They intend to replace the Social Security number with “a randomly generated Medicare beneficiary identifier,” but the details are still being worked out.”

If you have any questions regarding Medicare and Medicare supplemental insurance, call Tom Ostdiek at Ostdiek Group, Inc. 630-834-0125 for an honest evaluation of your insurance related needs.

For more background on this topic, we recommend this article published by the New York Times.