New Medicare cards a lone bright spot in identity-theft battle

Older Americans are especially vulnerable to scams and identity theft, and Medicare is doing something about it. Seniors will start receiving new identification cards next year as part of an effort to protect them from the rising risk of fraud.

But that is the only good news surrounding a sweeping federal initiative to bolster fraud defenses by reducing the widespread use of Social Security numbers as identifiers throughout the government.

Medicare cards use an identifier called the Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) – but right now it is the same as your Social Security number. Starting in April 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will be mailing new cards to enrollees that use a unique, randomly assigned number.

The swap follows 2015 legislation that required CMS to stop using Social Security numbers by April 2019. But a broader effort to weed out Social Security numbers by government agencies is lagging, according to a report issued last month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The federal government has been working on the problem for more than a decade, but a morass of regulatory and technological issues have stymied progress.

Learn more at Reuters Money.


  1. Don’t read more into this than what it says. Does it say Medicare Beneficiaries will receive new card staring in April, 2018? No, it says enrollees. That to me means those enrolling in Medicare beginning April, 2018. What about existing beneficiaries? When can they expect to receive new cards without a social security number on them?

  2. Mark Miller says:

    Jake, the language problem could be mine – when I wrote “enrollees” I did not mean people just signing up. CMS plans to begin mailing replacement cards to current beneficiaries starting in April 2018. The process will take a while, however.

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