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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Medicare changes – the good and the bad

By Kirstin Davis Marketplace Director

The good news is Social Security numbers will be removed from Medicare cards, the bad news is this will motivate sophisticated scammers to attempt to steal your identity or money.

By April 2019, all Medicare cards will be replaced. Cards will no longer use Social Security numbers as identifiers and instead will issue a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) that will be used for billing and for checking your eligibility and claim status.

This will help fight Medicare fraud and protect your medical and financial information. Unfortunately, changes can create confusion and miscommunication. This is the time when scammers get into high gear.

The Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest wants you to know what to expect and what to be aware of:

Timeline: The transition process of changing out Medicare cards is expected to take about two years. Cards with MBI numbers will be mailed beginning in April and will run through December 2019.

Benefits will not change: The MBI will not change Medicare benefits. People with Medicare may start using their new Medicare cards and MBIs as soon as they are received.

MBI number format: MBI numbers will be clearly different than Health Insurance Claim Numbers (HICN). They will consist of eleven characters and will be made up of only numbers and uppercase letters with no special characters.

Who is affected: Medicare beneficiaries, federal partners, state agencies, providers and plans. In addition, billing agencies, advocacy groups and data warehouses will need to adapt to the transition.

Be informed: Scammers know changes and misinformation is an open door for their tactics. Stay current with the most up-to-date information. Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors is part of the insurance commissioner’s consumer protection services and is hosting a free Fraud Expo on Wednesday. Call (509) 458-2509, ext. 501 for required registration. You can also find more information online at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Know the scam redflags: Medicare will never call you to verify medical information, personal information or charge you a fee for the card. They will also never threaten to cancel or change your benefits. If this happens to you, it is a scam.

To learn more about scams and identity theft, turn to If you are a victim of medical benefits fraud or suspect it, report it to the and review other reports in your area.

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