Kathy Welsh

Kathy Welsh

This is Part 1 of 3, provided by Dutchess County Office for the Aging

POUGHKEEPSIE – Medicare’s annual “Open Enrollment” period for coverage starting in 2018 begins on Oct, 15, 2017 and continues through Dec. 7.

This is your annual opportunity to match your medical and drug needs to the available plans.

As always, if you’re new to Medicare or have questions about your coverage, the Office for the Aging has counselors available to help you through any rough patches. Call us at (845) 486-2555 to find out more, keeping in mind that counselors’ appointments fill up quickly.

Starting in April 2018, every Medicare beneficiary will be receiving a new Medicare card, replacing the current card, which includes Social Security numbers. With more than 58 million beneficiaries in the system, the rollout of the new cards is expected to take about a year. By April 2019, every beneficiary should have received a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) card that will be used for billing and for checking your eligibility and claim status.

Your current Medicare ID consists of 10 characters: your Social Security number and one letter. The new MBI will consist of 11 randomly-chosen characters, both letters and numbers. The Social Security number is being removed. For clarity’s sake, there won’t be any letters on your MBI card that could be confused with numerals, like S, I and O to name three.

Watch your mail carefully starting next spring, so that you don’t throw out your new Medicare card by mistake.

Why the change? Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) say the use of Social Security numbers in Medicare has left some seniors vulnerable to identity theft and has left the Medicare system itself vulnerable to fraud. Still, scammers are already trying to take advantage of the transition. The FTC says the would-be ripoffs take four main forms. Here’s how to watch for the scams and avoid them:

  • Is someone calling, claiming to be from Medicare, and asking for your Social Security number or bank information? Hang up. That’s a scam. First, Medicare won’t call you. Second, Medicare will never ask for your Social Security number or bank information.
  • Is someone asking you to pay for your new card? That’s a scam. Your new Medicare card is free.
  • Is someone threatening to cancel your benefits if you don’t give up information or money? Also a scam. New Medicare cards will be mailed out to you automatically. There won’t be any changes to your benefits.
  • Is someone claiming they can get you the new Medicare card ahead of time? That’s also a scam. Cards are not being released until April 2018; Medicare had not even released the design for the new cards as of this month.

Medicare is a complex issue, so we’re splitting our Golden Living coverage of this year’s open enrollment period and new developments for 2018 into three weekly sections. In the second section, due out next week, you’ll find out about ways to compare plans, costs and coverage.

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