How to Secure a Medicare Card Number

Medicare uses a beneficiary’s Social Security number as the Medicare claim number. This is problematic for several reasons, including potential medical identity theft, Medicare fraud and abuse. Although some lawmakers are expressing concern that this leaves seniors especially vulnerable, Jeff Nelligan, director of media affairs at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, states, “While we share concerns about identify theft, to date we have not seen significant evidence that the security of Medicare cards has been compromised.” Because of this concern, seniors and the disabled should take steps to ensure their Medicare card numbers are secure.

Guard your card. Unless you have a family member or other caretaker coordinating your care, do not present your Medicare card to anyone except your physician and other Medicare providers. The only people who need this information are those who provide the specific services your doctor has ordered.

Understand fraud. Medicare defines fraud as “purposely billing Medicare for services that were never provided or received.” It’s fraud if someone asks to use your card to obtain services for themselves, if a provider bills for services that were canceled before delivery, or if the service that was received is not the same as the one billed. See the second link in References below for more information.

Be alert for fraudulent providers. Before giving your card number to any providers, you should evaluate them carefully. You should be suspicious of providers who use pressure tactics, such as telling you to get more and expensive procedures and you can save money or by stating they know how to get Medicare to pay for your services. If you are unsure about any provider, call your physician’s office or a Medicare representative and report your concerns.

Present your card number in a secure setting only. If you are using the secure website, make sure that you are also using a secure Internet service provider and that you have privacy. If you are at a physician’s office, make sure that no one is standing close enough to read your information that is being handed over and the patient representative is being equally cautious. Your Medicare card number is privileged health information and is covered by federal statute under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Report anything suspicious immediately. If your card is lost or stolen, call Medicare right away, just as you would for your bank card. Similarly, if you think someone is trying to obtain your information for fraudulent purposes or using tactics to coerce you into obtaining services you don’t need, report it.

Medicare uses a beneficiary's Social Security number as the Medicare claim number. This is problematic for several reasons