Our Blog

The New Medicare Cards

The New Medicare Cards

By Charles Clarkson, Project Director, Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey

In 2015, Congress passed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act. This law requires the removal of the social security numbers from all Medicare cards by April 2019. This new initiative is referred to as the Social Security Number Removal Initiative (SSNRI.) A new randomly generated Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) will replace the social security number. When the initiative gets underway all Medicare beneficiaries will be assigned a new MBI and be sent a new Medicare card.

The primary goal of the initiative is to decrease Medicare beneficiaries’ vulnerability to identity theft by removing the social security number from their Medicare cards and replacing it with a new Medicare MBI which does not contain any other personal information.

The new MBI will have the following characteristics:

i. The same number of characters as the current Medicare number, but will be visibly distinguishable from the Medicare number

ii. Contain uppercase alphabetic and numeric characters throughout the new MBI

iii. For providers, the new MBI will occupy the same field as the Medicare number on transactions

iv. Be unique to each beneficiary (e.g. husband and wife will have their own MBI)

v. Be easy to read and limit the possibility of letters being interpreted as numbers (e.g. alphabetic characters are upper case only and will exclude S, L, O, I, B, Z)

vi. Not contain any embedded intelligence or special characters

vii. Not contain inappropriate combinations of numbers or strings that may be offensive

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that oversees Medicare, has established a transition period during which the Medicare number or MBI will be accepted from providers, beneficiaries, plans, and others. CMS expects the transition period to run from April 2018 through December 31, 2019. After the transition period only the MBI will be used.

Starting around April 2018, CMS will start mailing new Medicare cards. There are approximately 60 million beneficiaries in Medicare. So, CMS will probably mail the cards in phases over a period of time. Remember, as a beneficiary you can still use your current Medicare number during the transition period if it takes awhile to receive your new Medicare card. If a beneficiary is new to Medicare after April 2018 and Medicare has started issuing the new cards, the beneficiary will receive the new MBI. Therefore, healthcare providers must be able accept the new MBIs by April 2018.

Fraud and the new Medicare cards.

The Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey (SMP) wants all Medicare beneficiaries to be aware of possible fraud and scams relating to the new Medicare cards. Remember, CMS and Medicare will never contact you by phone or email to ask for personal information relating to the issuance of the new Medicare cards. Any such contact is a scam. Don’t be taken in. Also, there will be no charge for the issuance of the new Medicare cards. Anyone seeking to have a beneficiary pay money for the new card is a scammer. Be especially careful of anyone seeking to have access to your checking account to pay any fee for the new card. Beneficiaries are especially vulnerable if they are isolated, frail or may have cognitive loss. Caregivers should be on the alert for these kinds of scams. The SMP is currently educating beneficiaries at its outreach events of the issuance of the new Medicare cards. CMS will also be conducting intensive education and outreach to beneficiaries to help them prepare for this change.

The issuance of the new Medicare card is a significant change. If a beneficiary or caregiver has any questions about the SSNRI, please don’t hesitate to call the SMP at 1-877-SMP-4359 (1-877-767-4359) or 732-777-1940. A beneficiary or caregiver can also email me at charlesc@jfsmiddlesex.org.

8 Numbers You Need to Know . . . for Life

The following is a great post from Barbara Hannah Grufferman from The Best of Everything After 50. We found it interesting and think you might too! Enjoy! And be sure to check out Barbara’s other posts.

8 Numbers You Need to Know . . . for Life

Hi. My name is Barbara and I’m 56.

Is this meaningful to you? More importantly, is it meaningful to me? My age, I mean. Should this number have any impact on how you view me, or how I view myself? In the ideal world, it would not. You would throw me in the same box along with everyone else and look at me through the same lens.

But, our world is imperfect, filled with all kinds of complicated and unfair ways to measure a person’s skills, talents, character, abilities, and worth. Age is just one aspect of the human measurement stick.

After turning 50, I made a decision that changed my life: I would never again focus on those measurements that were irrelevant to my happiness, health and well being, and only embrace those that are. My age, for example, is a measurement of my life of which I make note, of course, and celebrate (with joy!) each year. However, it does not define me, as it once did. It is, as it turns out, just a number.

Another is my weight. I knew as I approached 50 that I had gained more than what was considered reasonable for a woman who had been pretty much at “normal weight” for most of her life. After going through menopause and not making the necessary changes to what I ate or how I moved my body, not surprisingly, I gained 15 pounds. After taking control and losing all of it (which took six months), I threw out my scale. I have no idea exactly how much I weigh because it’s irrelevant. What’s meaningful is that I feel good, fit and healthy. Weight, for me now, is all about health and less about looks.

However, there are measurements essential to our well-being, and these are numbers we should truly care about — and know — especially as we age:

Waist size: Visceral fat is a sneaky, evil kind of fat that you can’t see. It worms its way around your internal organs, and is metabolized by the liver, which turns it into cholesterol in the blood. Having excess belly fat (even if you’re in the “normal weight” category) puts you at much greater risk for all kinds of health issues: metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, dementia, and even sexual dysfunction in men. How do you know if you have it? Skip the scale and bring out the tape measure: your waist size should be less than 35 inches (less than 40 inches for a man). The best way to get rid of belly fat (which is actually much easier to shed than the extra padding around your bottom or thighs) is to move your body by walking (see below) or running at least 30 minutes every day. And cut back on foods your know are not good for you.

Daily steps: It’s been established by many sources and studies that walking 10,000 steps every day, not even all at the same time, is essential to good health and overall fitness. And, it will help shed the evil visceral fat for good. Buy a simple pedometer and put it on in the morning and check periodically to make sure you’ll reach your goal by evening. Remember this: every single step puts you one step closer to better health.

Blood pressure: Simply put, blood pressure is the force of blood against artery walls when the heart beats and then rests. The ideal blood pressure for women is less than 120/70. BP of 140/90 or higher indicates hypertension (high blood pressure), which means your heart is working a lot harder than it should. Hypertension is directly linked to lifestyle — smoking, not moving your body, too much belly fat (see above), and eating too much salty processed food. If you make small changes in your life, you can naturally bring your pressure down, however, sometimes genetics plays a part, and meds might be necessary.

Cholesterol: The ideal cholesterol level for women is under 200 total. The HDL (known as the “good” cholesterol) should be higher than 60, and the LDL (“bad”) should be under 100. If a woman has a total cholesterol level of over 240, that is considered high. Again, lifestyle plays a major role, but genetics can also influence your number. We know that having high cholesterol levels in your blood, and especially if the LDL level is high, puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke.

Triglyceride: Your triglyceride level is another strong indicator of potential cardiovascular disease. Triglycerides are a type of fat (similar to cholesterol) found in the blood. The acceptable numbers for women are lower than those for men. Even though the American Heart Association says that the acceptable level is under 150, recent studies conducted by the AHA and the Women’s Health Initiative suggest that a post 50 woman’s risk for cardiovascular disease increase after her level goes beyond 50, and most women (and many doctors) are not familiar with these latest studies. This should be an essential part of the discussion you have with your primary care physician at your next annual checkup.

Blood Sugar (Glucose): Your ability to regulate blood sugar is harder once you’re over fifty. The ideal level is under 100. Blood sugar levels normally go up and down during the course of the day. If you’re taking good care of yourself — eating well and moving your body — the shifts are minor. However, if you’re not, blood sugar levels can spike and crash, wreaking all kinds of havoc with your body and your brain, and can precede diabetes. The single most effective way to regulate blood sugar is — drum roll, please — by eating healthy foods and moving your body every day.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D’s importance in promoting bone health and reducing risk of osteoporosis by helping with the absorption of calcium is well established. But there’s ongoing evidence that the “sunshine vitamin” can reduce the risk of other diseases, as well. The ideal level of vitamin D is 34 mg/ml or higher. Women over 50 should take between 1,200 and 1,500 IU every day. However many doctors I interviewed confided that they personally take at least 2,000. So do I.

Sunscreen on the skin: We know that too much sun can cause wrinkles, brown spots, and most importantly, skin cancer. Experts recommend applying sunscreen to all exposed areas of the body, rain or shine and all year long, with a minimum of SPF 30 and preferably 50. However, the benefits of going higher than 50 are marginal. Look for broad spectrum sunscreens with the following ingredients: Mexoryl, titanium dioxide, and Parsol 1789.

What’s on your measurement stick? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. The more we share, the more we learn. And remember this: we can’t control getting older . . . but we can control how we do it.

Connect with Barbara on Facebook, Twitter and read my weekly column–Best of Everything After 50–on aarp.org. For more tips on living your best life after 50 visit www.bestofeverythingafter50.com.

This article originally appeared on aarp.org as a post for Barbara’s column, Best of Everything After 50.