Medicare program managers are preparing to begin a massive health insurance card conversion in April.
The program will start mailing new identification cards to Medicare enrollees, in an effort to get Social Security numbers off the cards, to give the enrollees a little extra protection against identity theft.
(Related: Identity Thieves Are Trying to Loot Annuities )
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is making the change to carry out part of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, or MACRA. MACRA Section 501 requires CMS to remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards, and to replace the use of Social Security numbers with new, randomly generated Medicare beneficiary identifiers, or MBIs.
CMS hopes to replace all Medicare cards that use Social Security numbers with cards that use MBIs by April 2019.
CMS tested 10 different possible new card designs and consumers, and they ended up sticking with the same red, white and blue palette used in the current cards, according to a PowerPoint slidedeck aimed at agents, brokers and retiree health plan sponsors.
CMS also conducted a consumer card shift awareness survey. In September, most consumers surveyed said they liked the idea of getting Social Security numbers off of Medicare cards, but only 11% knew CMS was preparing to make that happen.
Here’s a look at three ways the shift might be good for any financial professionals who work with clients over the age of 65 — or with the children of people over the age of 65 — even if those financial professionals have nothing whatsoever to do with selling Medicare plans.
1. Offer clients and prospects news they can use.
The Medicare card shift is a necessary evil that will make a confusing program a little more confusing.
Of course, any change that makes Medicare different, or more confusing, will give agents, brokers, financial planners and others a chance to explain the new system.
You can get information about the Medicare beneficiary identifier program, and the new cards, directly from CMS from the CMS New Medicare Card information page. The information page is available here.
CMS officials are actively encouraging partners, including agents and brokers, to fill consumer awareness gaps.
“Even among the few [that are] aware, there is little knowledge about timing,” officials note.
CMS officials also want help with telling consumers what to do once they get their new cards.
(Slidedeck video (no audio): Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services)
The Medicare card shift will not have a direct effect on users of Medicare Advantage plans, because most use cards from the plan issuers, not the original Medicare cards. But CMS needs help with telling Medicare Advantage plan enrollees to continue using their current plan cards, according to a Medicare card messaging guidelines guide CMS prepared for employers and business partners.
Most adults in America either use Medicare or have relatives who use Medicare.
Financial professionals can use information about the shift in traditional ads, postal mailings, email newsletters, blog entries and social media posts.
Financial professionals who would have trouble creating their own content, or would have trouble getting any self-generated content through compliance, can simply re-use materials prepared by CMS.