Retirement

What Should You Do If You Lose Your Medicare Card?

In late January, I talked with Bill, a client whose job, along with his healthcare insurance, was eliminated and he needs Medicare by March 1.

My first question was, “Are you enrolled in any part of Medicare?”

He replied that Social Security enrolled him in Part A, hospital insurance, when he signed up for retirement benefits. (He was over 65 when he applied for benefits so Social Security enrolled him automatically in Part A.)

Now, he needs to enroll in Part B, medical insurance. That process requires Bill to submit two forms to Social Security: the CMS-40B, “Application for Enrollment in Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance),” and the CMS-L564, “Request for Employment Information.”

Unfortunately, he was tripped up by the first line on the CMS-40B form, “Your Medicare Number.” He didn’t have the card in his wallet. The next day, he reported that he had looked high and low and couldn’t find the card. How could he get a new one?

A lost Medicare card is not a rare occurrence. It’s a small piece of unlaminated paper that can end up in the laundry, lost in a pocket, or put in such a safe place that you can’t find it. If you search the internet for “replacement Medicare card,” the top results will likely be from medicare.gov and ssa.gov, telling you to just “Log into (or create) your secure Medicare account to print or order an official copy of your Medicare card.”

Bill does not have a Medicare.gov account so he had to create one. And, once again, he tripped. He quickly discovered that he also needed his Medicare Part A number to do this. Bill could call Social Security at (800) 772-1213 or visit the office to get his Medicare number. But, since he has never had success getting through on the phone and the office is about 45 minutes from his home, he needed another way to get the number.

I told Bill that his Benefit Verification Letter from Social Security contains his Medicare number. If he can’t find that, he could log into his my Social Security account, click on Benefit Verification Letter, and scroll down to somewhere in the second page. But this wasn’t going to work because he never created an account. I gave him the instructions and said that could also take time because Social Security uses a service to verify the applicant’s identity. After his identity is confirmed, he has the option to receive the account activation code by mail, text message, or automated voice message. (He should not choose mail.) Once he receives the code, he can activate his my Social Security account, retrieve the Medicare number, and get his enrollment started.

How to avoid the issues that tripped up Bill

• Set up a my Social Security account today, even if Medicare is not in your foreseeable future. Follow the step-by-step instructions on the Social Security website. With this account, you can do much more than just find your Medicare number.

Update information in your Social Security account, including changes in address or personal information, marital status, name, and direct deposit

Create a Medicare.gov account. You need a Medicare number for this. Then, you can check the details of your enrollment and current Medicare coverage, check the status of claims, review health records, and more.

Protect your Medicare card. Treat it like a credit card. Put it someplace safe that you’ll remember. Don’t ever give out your number except to your doctor or other Medicare providers.

• When it’s time to tackle Medicare, give yourself enough time, if at all possible.

No doubt Bill must have felt as though he was stranded in the middle of a mine field when he could not find his Medicare card. The simple steps above will help you avoid that lost-and-lonely feeling when necessary information is not right at hand.

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