New Medicare cards will be coming to a mailbox near you.

To better combat medical identity fraud, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid is issuing new cards with identification numbers specific to Medicare. There’s no change to coverage or benefits.

“They’re getting the Social Security number off of the cards,” said Denise Pugh, regional director for North Mississippi Medical Clinics, which has started a patient education campaign to prepare seniors for the change.

Everyone who is enrolled in Medicare will receive a new card by mail, so seniors will need to make sure they keep an eye out for a letter from Medicare. People who are new to Medicare since April will receive the cards as they enroll. Mississippi is the last group of states slated to receive the new cards. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid website currently says those cards will be mailed after June.

Pugh anticipates Mississippi’s turn will come before the end of the year. CMS has posted that all cards will be mailed by April 2019.

Medicare recipients won’t need to do anything but keep an eye out for a letter from Medicare that will contain the new cards, Pugh said. Seniors should be wary of anyone calling and emailing about the new Medicare cards. It doesn’t cost anything to get a card; no one enrolled in Medicare needs an advocate to receive a card.

“Medicare will communicate through the mail,” Pugh said. “They will never ask you for information over the telephone.”

The new cards will be paper, not plastic. When Medicare recipients get their new cards, they should protect the number the same way they guard their Social Security number. They should only share the new Medicare number with their health care providers, like clinics, hospitals and pharmacies, insurers and people they trust to work with Medicare on their behalf.

The old Medicare card should be destroyed to protect their Social Security number, Pugh said. Those who have Medicare Advantage Plans will keep their Medicare Advantage Plan ID card and carry it in addition to the new Medicare identification card.

Mailing every person receiving Medicare a new card is a huge undertaking, and the distribution will take time, according to CMS officials. As the cards start arriving in Mississippi, friends and neighbors may receive their cards at different times.

Clinics, hospitals and other health care providers will be able to use both the old Medicare card and the new cards as they arrive through the end of 2019, Pugh said. After 2019, Medicare recipients will need to change over to the new cards completely.

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