The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Studies (CMS) recently made a pair of announcements regarding changes to some of the important services the agency offers to millions of seniors across the country. Both of which aim to improve customer experience for CMS enrollees and help combat the threat of identity theft against those seeking vital medical treatments paid for in part by the federal government.
To help protect seniors from identity theft, CMS has begun phasing in new Medicare cards that no longer display enrollees’ Social Security numbers. Pennsylvania residents will be among the first to receive the new cards that assign each person a randomly generated eleven-digit number.
Social Security numbers are vital for accessing key financial information, medical records, and legal documents and should a Medicare enrollee’s card fall into the wrong hands, it could result in a serious case of identity theft. The new cards are tied directly to existing accounts so those who receive the new cards will have all their medical information will still be available with their doctors.
The rest of the country should see their own cards come in the mail by April 2018. It is important to note that the cards will be mailed directly to enrollees so Medicare will not contact individuals asking for information to update their cards. Any calls from someone asking about personal information and claiming to be from CMS are likely fraudulent.
Another important update from CMS was the recent announcement the agency will increase payment to private health insurance plans like Medicare Advantage by an average 3.4 percent next year, almost double the amount it had previously estimated. Depending on the age and health of patients, some insurance carriers could see a rise as high as 6.5 percent.
Medicare Advantage is an important source of growth for health insurers as the Baby Boomers get older and more people opt for private insurance plans, rather than the traditional Medicare program. About 21.4 million people are enrolled in the private plans while 37.7 million rely on standard Medicare.
Sometimes referred to as “Part C” plans, Medicare Advantage covers all the services offered by traditional Medicare Part A and B but also offers extra services like vision, hearing, dental, and health and wellness programs. Medicare pays a fixed amount for the enrollee’s care each month to the companies offering Medicare Advantage Plans and these companies must follow rules set by Medicare.