Posts Tagged ‘benefits’

The New Medicare Cards

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

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.

Many Considerations Regarding Social Security Benefits, Who Knew?

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Many Considerations Regarding Social Security Benefits, Who Knew?

File and Suspend. Sounds like orders for a top secret spy. But no, it is a term used in the world of Social Security benefits. File and suspend means that someone can apply for their Social Security Retirement benefits but then suspend receiving their payments. Why? Well some people want to delay collecting their Social Security because there is a retirement bonus for putting off collecting your benefits. The reason that some individuals may elect to file and then suspend those benefits is so a husband or wife can collect spousal benefits presently and the individual can still receive the delayed bonus when they unsuspended their benefits at age 70.

Confused? So were we. Upon reading about this in a Social Security advice column in the Trenton Times, we did some research. There is a lot of information online about Social Security benefits and financial advice regarding applying for your benefits. As always, we suggest you start at the source and only trust information from the Social Security Administration website. This page on the Social Security Administration website, http://www.ssa.gov/retire2/suspend.htm tells you about your option to suspend benefits and a few cautions before making your decision.

If you receive Medicare Part B, you will be billed directly by Medicare for that premium which is usually deducted straight from your Social Security payment. If you suspend and are not receiving a Social Security payment but still are enrolled in Medicare Part B you will be billed for your premium for that coverage. The other caution which may affect less people is that if you are an SSI recipient, suspending your Social Security Retirement benefit will make you ineligible for your SSI benefits.

So, if you want to hold off until age 70 to receive your Social Security Retirement benefits and receive  bonus for delaying your benefits, whatever the reason may be, you can do so by using the file and suspend method. If you have questions or need further advice contact the Social Security Administration online at www.ssa.gov, on the phone at  1-800-772-1213, or TTY number, 1-800-325-0778, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can also contact your financial advisor.

Be sure to read the next issue of Renaissance magazine for important information on financial planning, social security and more. Don’t know how to find it? Ask us at office@njfoundationforaging.org

Preventive Services

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Preventive Services

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a new report showing that more than 5 million Americans with traditional Medicare – or nearly one in six people with Medicare – took advantage of one or more of the recommended preventive benefits now available for free because of the Affordable Care Act.   Medicare wants to raise awareness about all of the important preventive benefits now covered at no charge to patients, including the new Annual Wellness Visit benefit created by the Affordable Care Act.  

 “I am committed to ensuring that the Medicare beneficiaries we serve are aware of and take advantage of their Medicare preventive benefits.” Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee.

According to the report, over 5.5 million beneficiaries in traditional Medicare used one or more of the preventive benefits now covered. The covered services do not have co pays and include mammograms, bone density screenings, and screenings for prostate cancer. 

In 2011, Medicare began covering an Annual Wellness Visit at no cost to Medicare beneficiaries.  As part of that visit, beneficiaries and their physicians can review the patient’s health and develop a personalized wellness plan.  Over 780,000 beneficiaries received an Annual Wellness Visit between January 1 and June 10. Additionally, more seniors have used the Welcome to Medicare Exam this year. The Welcome to Medicare is a one-time preventive health exam available to enrollees in the first 12 months they have Part B.  66,302 beneficiaries had taken advantage of the benefit by the end of May 2011, compared to 52,654 beneficiaries at the same point in 2010 – a 26 percent increase.

The new annual wellness visit can help spark the beginning of an ongoing conversation between patients and their doctors on how to prevent disease and disability.  Patients should take advantage of this time by reviewing their histories and making sure their primary care doctor knows about their other providers and prescriptions. They can also talk about the pros and cons of getting an influenza, pneumococcal or hepatitis B vaccination, or find out whether a diabetes test, a bone mass measurement, or any of several cancer screenings would be right for them.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Medicare now covers many of these services without cost to patients.

  You can find additional information on prevention benefits on line at www.Medicare.gov, and at www.healthcare.gov

Affordable Care Act (ACA) Facts: Follow this Series

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

There is a lot of speculation and discussion about what affect health care reform legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), will have on seniors and more specifically, Medicare.

Fact # 1 ACA will not cut your basic Medicare benefits.

There are actually some improvements to Medicare benefits as a result of ACA. One immediate improvement, according to the Law, is more help with prescription drug coverage. In Medicare prescription drug coverage there is something commonly referred to as “the donut hole” which refers to a coverage gap where seniors end up paying 100% of prescription drug costs. The new law helps you pay these costs right away. If you enter the donut hole this year, Medicare will send you a check for $250. You don’t have to do anything to get the check. It will arrive around 45 days after you reach the gap. In 2011, if you enter the donut hole, you’ll pay only half of what your plan charges for brand-name drugs—a 50% discount. By 2020, the donut hole will be slowly phased out and completely eliminated because of the Affordable Care Act.

Also as a result of ACA, a free annual well visit is now available in 2011. The free annual wellness checkup will allow you and your doctor to develop a prevention plan to keep you healthy. And a range of prevention services, such as cancer and diabetes screenings, will be provided free, no more cost sharing.

Another improvement related to the ACA, better care when you get sick! 80% of older Americans, have at least one chronic medical condition such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes. If you are one of them, you probably see several doctors, who may not always work together. The law will invest in testing new models of care for people with chronic conditions in order to provide better care, better coordination, and more patient-centered services. If you must be hospitalized, the law also will help you return home successfully, and avoid going re-hospitalization, by providing incentives for hospitals to make sure that you get the services you need in your community and by teaching you ways to take good care of yourself.

There are more facts that seniors need to know about how the new healthcare legislation will impact you and your Medicare coverage, stay tuned for more information from NJFA.

The information in this blog was gathered from language in the Affordable Care Act, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid and the National Council on Aging.

For more information check out the following links:

A brochure from Medicare:

http://www.medicare.gov/Publications/Pubs/pdf/11467.pdf

Webpage from the National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD):

http://www.nasuad.org/affordable_care_act/nasuad_materials.html

Answers from the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a):

http://www.n4a.org/advocacy/health-care-reform/

Straight Talk for Seniors from the National Council on Aging:

http://www.ncoa.org/public-policy/health-care-reform/straight-talk/