More than 60 million Americans receive Medicare benefits. In fact, over 18% of Americans are currently covered under the federal Medicare program. After successfully enrolling in the program, understanding how to use your Medicare card is very important with respect to accessing and paying for care. This article will provide you with the basic information you need to know in regard to receiving, using, safeguarding and if necessary, replacing, your Medicare card.
What is a Medicare Card, and What Does it Look Like?
Your Medicare card is issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and serves as proof that you’re enrolled in the Medicare program and entitled to benefits under your plan. Your Medicare card has a distinguishable look with three horizontal lines, each colored red, white and blue. The most important part of your ID card is your unique Medicare beneficiary ID number, as this is what is used to identify and properly bill you. Below your ID number, you will see HOSPITAL (Part A) and/or MEDICAL (Part B) insurance and a month and year. These are the start dates of your Medicare benefits and can impact your eligibility to enroll and the availability of supplemental benefits.
If you are enrolled in Original Medicare (Parts A and B), your card will not list any additional benefits. If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage, Part D or Medicare Supplement plan, you will be sent a separate ID card for these plans from the plan sponsor. When accessing medical care, have your cards available so the healthcare provider can apply your benefits for their services.
When Do You Receive Your Medicare Card?
You’ll get your Medicare card in the mail once you’re enrolled in Medicare – the process of receiving your card is automatic and requires no action on your part after you have enrolled in Medicare.
You will be automatically enrolled in Medicare if you are receiving Social Security benefits, and your Medicare card will be mailed to you three months prior to your 65th birthday.
For those who are not automatically enrolled in Medicare, you’re encouraged to enroll when you first become eligible. For most, this is during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), which is specific to your 65th birthday. The Initial Enrollment Period lasts seven months and includes the three months before your 65th birthday, the month of your 65th birthday and the three months after your 65th birthday. If you enroll in Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period, typically you’ll get your Medicare card within 30 days of being enrolled. If your circumstances are such where you are required to enroll in Medicare, do not delay enrollment as you will risk delays in coverage and lifetime penalties.
If you are under 65 and eligible for Medicare due to a qualifying disability, you’ll receive your Medicare card in the mail in the 23rd month of collecting Social Security Disability payments. Your benefits will begin the 24th month from your first Social Security Disability payment.
When you qualify for Medicare due to an Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) diagnosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), you’ll get your Medicare card in the same month that you start to receive benefits. After submitting your application due to ALS and the five-month waiting period passes, you’ll begin to receive disability benefits, which automatically enrolls you in Medicare.
For those that are diagnosed with End-Stage Renal Disease, your Medicare start date is calculated differently. Your coverage begins the first day of the fourth month from the start of your dialysis treatments, or in the month you’re admitted to the hospital for a kidney transplant. In some cases, individuals apply for Medicare after they were already eligible, in which case retroactive coverage can be applied up to 12 months before you signed up for Medicare. Your Medicare card will arrive in the mail within 30 days of enrollment.
Using Your Medicare Card
After enrolling in Medicare, it is important that you bring your red, white and blue Medicare card on your first visit to your healthcare provider. As is standard with any change in health insurance, they will make a photocopy to keep in their records for billing purposes of future visits. However, some pharmacies, labs, doctors and healthcare providers may need you to bring and show your Medicare card each time you require a service or if you’re obtaining care there for the first time. Additionally, if you receive a replacement Medicare card for any reason, be sure to bring it with you on visits to healthcare providers in order to update your file. If you have a separate card for a Medicare Advantage plan, you will use this card for all care as your plan sponsor will coordinate and pay for all claims.
Protecting your privacy is important and should always be a priority when accessing and using care. Therefore, you should only share this information with your doctor’s office and reputable healthcare providers. Your Medicare card contains sensitive personal information and should be safeguarded accordingly. The Medicare ID number on your card is unique to you and should never be shared with anyone who is not your insurer, doctor or healthcare provider. Store your Medicare card in a safe place, and if a scammer requests any personal information over the phone, hang up immediately.
How to Get a Replacement Medicare Card
If you damage or lose your Medicare card, you should first know that you may not need to apply for a replacement. If you create and log in to your secure account at MyMedicare.gov, you’re able to print an official copy that can function as your Medicare card.
If, on the other hand, your card has been stolen or you suspect someone else is using your Medicare ID number, you should call and report this immediately at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). For TTY users, call 1-877-486-2048.
While the regulations related to Medicare can seem complex, know that help is available at no cost to you from Medicare Portal. Many Medicare beneficiaries before you have had the same questions about how to use, safeguard and replace their Medicare card. Please reach out to our team if you have additional questions about your Medicare card, Medicare coverage or benefits, changing your Medicare plan or more. Contact us today to speak to a local Medicare insurance agent!