DENVER (CBS4) – Social Security numbers appear on Medicare cards. Federal legislation proposed last year would have changed that, but it failed.

A CBS4 viewer contacted 4 On Your Side Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks to see what can be done to protect Medicare card holders from identity theft.

Medicare wants to protect people from identity theft, but to stop using Social Security numbers as identity numbers would cost an enormous amount of taxpayer money. It would mean establishing a whole new database and computer system.

Changing all the numbers would also require every provider in America to change their computer system at their expense. So it’s likely not going to happen anytime soon, but there is a simple way to protect a Social Security number.

In a room full of people over the age of 65, one after another showed Brooks their Medicare card that they always carry with them.

“I’m concerned about a medical emergency,” Iris Mosely said.

It’s the same for Elise Cohen.

“I may need it instantly, and I have it,” Cohen said.

There’s Sidney Weinstein.

“I’ve been in the hospital maybe eight or 10 times the last year, and although they have a record of it, they always ask for it,” Weinstein said.

Abe Wagner is prepared as well.

“I carry it because most doctors’ offices want to see it. They insist on seeing it,” Wagner said.

So Brooks talked about the issue with Cary Johnson, a fraud expert with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office.

“Every ID thief knows that a Medicare card has that individual’s or their beneficiary’s Social Security number on it,” Johnson said.

To get protection, make a photo copy of the Medicare card. On that copy take a black felt pen and blacken just the last four numbers on the card. Those numbers should only be known by the card holder.

“When you check into your medical facility, it only takes the last four digits to bring you up as a patient,” Johnson said. “They may ask to see a driver’s license or some other form of ID, and I hope that they do.”

Brooks checked with Medicare about the procedure, and the government agency encourages it.

“At least you have some proof that you are a Medicare beneficiary if there is an emergency,” said Mike Fierberg, Medicare & Medicaid Public Affairs Specialist.

What’s important is not to harm the original Medicare card. Be sure to make a photo copy and black out the last four numbers on the copy only.

“That makes a lot of sense,” Weinstein said.

It’s just another way to safeguard a Social Security number.

The first time visiting a healthcare provider, bring the original Medicare card. The office will likely want a photocopy for its files. When not using it, be sure to store the original card in a safe place.


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