NASW Practice Alert: Dissemination of New Medicare Cards Is Under Way

Learn How to Talk with Your Clients About the Change

Chris Herman, MSW, LICSW
Senior Practice Associate–Aging

August 2018

As described in a previous NASW Practice Alert (Herman, 2017), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is issuing new Medicare cards to beneficiaries. Whereas each Medicare card formerly included the beneficiary’s Social Security number, each new card will use a unique Medicare number, also known as a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). The MBI is randomly assigned and does not replace an individual’s Social Security number.

The removal of Social Security numbers from Medicare cards will protect the identity of beneficiaries. This Practice Alert provides an update on CMS’s New Medicare Card initiative and equips social workers to educate beneficiaries about the new cards.

Dissemination of New Medicare Cards

CMS began mailing the new Medicare cards to beneficiaries in April 2018 and will complete the mailings in April 2019. The cards are being mailed in phases to beneficiaries in specific geographic areas. However, beneficiaries living in the same geographic area may receive their cards at different times.

As of this writing, cards have been mailed to beneficiaries in the following states and jurisdictions.

  • Alaska
  • American Samoa
  • California
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Guam
  • Hawai'i
  • Maryland
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

As of this writing, cards are being mailed to beneficiaries in the following states.

  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin

Cards will be mailed to the following states and jurisdictions in three phases (timing yet to be determined) in the months following July 2018.

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Puerto Rico
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

Beginning in April 2018, new enrollees in Medicare receive the new Medicare card at the time of enrollment. This practice applies to every new enrollee, regardless of place of residence.

The New Cards

The new Medicare cards are printed on paper and do not include the beneficiary’s gender or signature. Side-by-side images of a sample current (or old) card and a sample new card are below:

Two cards, one to the right and on top of the other. New card! New number! Current Medicare card. New Medicare card.

How Social Workers Can Help Clients with the New Medicare Cards

Inform Medicare beneficiaries who live in the area in which you work when to expect their new Medicare card in the mail and encourage them to verify their addresses.

  • Remind beneficiaries that no action on their part is needed to obtain a new Medicare card.

  • Use CMS’s beneficiary-oriented new Medicare card Web page,, to monitor the status of card mailings by geographic location. Click on the “View information by state” link below the map to check the status for your area.

  • Inform beneficiaries who use e-mail that they may sign up to receive an e-mail from Medicare (CMS) when cards are mailed to beneficiaries in their state or jurisdiction. The sign-up option is located on the home page of the new Medicare Web page, listed in the previous paragraph. Beneficiaries only need to enter an e-mail address and state to request an update; the notification from Medicare is not specific to the beneficiary’s name, current Medicare number, or other identifying information.

  • Encourage beneficiaries to update their mailing addresses, as needed, to ensure card delivery. Beneficiary addresses must be updated with the Social Security Administration. Visit How can I change my address? for additional information.

  • When card mailings have been completed in the state or jurisdiction in which you work, check with the beneficiaries you serve to ensure they have received their new cards. If a beneficiary has not received a card, encourage the individual to dial 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or, for TTY users, 1-877-486-2048.

  • Be attuned to potential delivery delays or missed deliveries to beneficiaries who have experienced or are experiencing transitions of care, such as from a private home to a residential care setting or vice versa. These individuals, as well as beneficiaries who do not have permanent housing, may need extra assistance in obtaining their cards.

Educate beneficiaries about how to use the new card.

  • The new Medicare card does not change Medicare coverage or benefits, nor does it change the date of Medicare eligibility.

  • People who have requested information in an alternate format, such as audio, Braille, data CD, and large print, will receive supplemental information about the new card in the format of their choice.

  • Any beneficiary who participates in Original Medicare (the traditional fee-for-service plan) should use the new Medicare card immediately upon receipt. The individual should destroy the old Medicare card, preferably by shredding the old card. However, the beneficiary should retain and continue to use the Medicare Part D card for prescription drugs and, if applicable, the Medigap card for supplemental insurance.

  • Any beneficiary who participates in Medicare Advantage (a managed care plan, such as a health maintenance organization or a preferred provider organization)  should destroy the old red, white, and blue Medicare card but should retain and use the Medicare Advantage Plan ID.

  • Regardless of choice of Medicare coverage, every beneficiary should carry the new card at all times; even individuals in a Medicare Advantage plan may be asked to show the new Medicare card on occasion.

  • If a beneficiary does not have the new Medicare card available when receiving health care, a health care provider may be able to look up the individual’s unique Medicare number online. Reassure beneficiaries that health care providers will continue to use the old Medicare numbers, if necessary, through the end of 2019.

  • If the card is lost or damaged, the beneficiary may sign in to to print a an official copy. Individuals who do not have a account may create one at the same link. Individuals who do not have Internet access or who prefer not to create an online account may call Medicare for assistance.

  • Beneficiaries who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid or who have limited English proficiency may need extra support in understanding and using their new Medicare cards.

Help beneficiaries understand how to safeguard their personal information and to avoid fraud.

Reports have been made of scams associated with the new Medicare card.  For example, someone may call a beneficiary and state that money must be sent or that a bank account number, a credit card number, a Social Security number, or other personal information must be disclosed to obtain the new Medicare card. Callers may even threaten to cancel health benefits if a beneficiary doesn’t comply with the request. 

Medicare (CMS) only calls individuals in two situations:

  1. The individual has called Medicare and left a message.
  2. The individual has called Medicare and a representative has said someone would place a return call to the individual.

People who believe they have experienced identity theft or Medicare fraud should report the situation to Medicare by phone and request a new card with a different Medicare number.

Beneficiaries should safeguard their new Medicare cards and their unique Medicare numbers, providing this information only to health care providers, insurers, or people they trust to work with Medicare on their behalf.

Additional information about the new Medicare cards is available in a related NASW Practice Alert, Clinical Social Workers Be Aware: New Claim Change Coming (Coleman, 2017).

CMS Resources

New Medicare card page for beneficiaries

New Medicare card page for professionals

Sample letter to beneficiaries regarding new Medicare card

Medicare Card Messaging Guidelines

New Medicare card English & Spanish beneficiary resources (including flyers, posters, and videos), available in English and Spanish


Coleman, M. (2017, August). Clinical social workers be aware: New claim change coming [NASW Practice Alert]. Retrieved from

Herman, C. (2017, August). CMS issues new Medicare cards to protect the identity of beneficiaries: Unique Medicare numbers will replace Social Security number on cards [NASW Practice Alert]. Retrieved from


i. Visit How Original Medicare works for more information about Original Medicare.

ii. Visit How do Medicare Advantage Plans work? for more information about Medicare Advantage.

iii. As of this writing, multiple cases of such fraud have been reported at the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker, for example, and at least one case has been reported on the AARP Fraud Watch Network Scam-Tracking Map.