The Wait for New Medicare ID Cards Could Be Longer Than Expected

Oct 7, 2016

If you’re on Medicare, you’re probably carrying around an ID card that includes your Social Security number. That’s a problem that everybody in Washington says they want to fix, but it’s taking longer than some would like.

Those Medicare cards that include Social Security numbers may be putting seniors at risk of identity theft. That’s why Congress passed a bill last year to replace those social security numbers with randomly generated ID numbers. But that hasn’t happened yet, and that frustrates Republican Congressman Dave Brat.

“There’s just kind of inertia behind the way programs have always worked. But when cyber attacks are getting hit and Hillary and the DNC are getting hit I mean I don’t care what party you’re in, it’s like hello wake up we’re in the 21st century."

Hold on, says Lorraine Ryan, spokeswoman for the federal agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid. She says they’ve already identified 75 different databases that need to be coordinated -- things like the railroad retirement system with Social Security, for example.

“We’re taking the necessary time that it takes for this to be successful."

Ryan says they plan to replace the cards by April 2019. That’s the deadline in the law.

“It may seem like a long time but I’d like to say that we are definitely moving with alacrity to really successfully implement the very large and very complex initiative."

That means for now, about a million Medicare ID cards are floating around Virginia -- potential targets for identity thieves and hackers. That’s until the new cards are issued sometime in the next three years.