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October 21, 2018

Federal Employee Retirement and Benefits News

Tag: social security numbers

Medicare Begins Replacing Social Security Numbers on Medicare ID Cards

Identity theft is an ever-increasing concern, especially for seniors. An easily lost or misplaced source of personal information that can have a devastating impact on your credit is your Medicare card. This one card carries a vital piece of personal information that can be used to steal your tax refund or even open credit lines in your name. That piece of information is your full Social Security number (SSN).

Medicare Replaces Social Security Numbers with ID numbers

Currently, Medicare cards reflect your health insurance claim number (HICN) which is the same as your SSN. While the Social Security Administration (SSA) warns Americans to not carry their Social Security card with them, Medicare instructs beneficiaries to carry their card at all times.

Change is rapidly approaching as Medicare prepares to issue new Medicare ID cards without SSNs in order to comply with the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015. By April 2019, all Medicare recipients should receive a new card that reflects a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) number that will be used for billing, eligibility verifications and claim status.

Timeline for Replacement

Officials have recently stated that the replacement of Medicare ID cards is on track and it will be able to meet the 2019 deadline. While a final prototype of the new card has not been revealed to the public yet. It is believed that the MBI will have 11 characters which will have a combination of randomly generated upper-case letters and numbers. In April of 2018, the agency plans to start mailing the new cards to all current Medicare beneficiaries. Beneficiaries will be instructed to safely and securely destroy their current Medicare cards and keep the new MBI confidential.

It’s Not the First Complicated Health Care Transition

Though changing the numbers on Medicare ID cards presents a few challenges, it’s not the first of its kind. Much has been learned from the massive launch of “Obamacare” and the Medicare drug program rollout, neither of which were without difficulty. Many people will remember that the Healthcare Marketplace computer systems were plagued with issues when they first launched to the public. You may also recall that millions of low-income Medicare drug program beneficiaries were not able to get their prescriptions filled initially.

Aim of a Seamless Transition

The replacement of SSNs with a randomly generated MBI extends far beyond the nearly 57 million elderly and disabled Medicare beneficiaries. It also requires that the health care provider community prepares their systems for the change. However, many providers were dedicated to the Social Security Removal Initiative (SSNRI) long before legislation mandating the removal was signed into law. Many are already prepared for a seamless transition to the MBI number system.

In a statement made recently, Seema Verma who serves as Medicare Chief stated that the Trump administration is aiming for a seamless transition over a 21-month period which will involve coordination with hospitals, doctors, beneficiaries, family members, state government, insurance companies and pharmacies.


While long overdue, the removal of Social Security numbers from Medicare cards should help lessen the chances of identity fraud for Medicare beneficiaries. In the meantime, Medicare Beneficiaries are still at risk for identity theft so it’s important to carry your card safely and be vigilant about who has access to this important piece of personal identification.

1 Billion USD Paid to People without Social Security Numbers

A new audit has highlighted that $1 billion was paid to people without social security numbers. This is amongst the most shocking social security news that has come out in a long time. Lack of proper records is said to be the key reason behind the mistake, and the Social Security Administration (SSA) is seen defending itself post the release of this report.

social security numbers $1Billion given away to recipients without social security numbers

Report Says 1 Billion USD Paid to People without Social Security Numbers

The report which states $1 Billion was given to people without social security numbers was compiled during a fresh audit. The inspector general of the agency found many errors in the documentation done by the government for representative payees. The representative payees are also known as individuals who get disability or retirement payments on behalf of a person who is not able to manage the benefits themselves.

The key finding of the audit was that there were thousands of cases where there were no social security numbers present on file. This report was released just a few days back. It states that the social security administration paid $1 billion to about 22,000 representative payees without an SSN. It also highlighted that SSA has failed to follow its policy to retain the paper application.

Future Trend

The Inspector General also stated that if the SSA fails to take a corrective action in this regard, it will continue to pay around $182.5 million worth of benefits annually to the representative payees without any social security numbers or those representatives that lack a paper application regarding their selection.

The Past

In the past, the agency has paid USD 853.1 million in benefits since 2004 to individuals who were terminated as representative payees by the agency. According to the Inspector General, the errors occurred mainly because SSA failed to keep paper applications that supported an individual’s case to receive benefits on other person’s behalf. The agency also failed to update its system in the cases where the status was terminated.

More Data

Further results of the audit state that just 6 percent of representative payees had properly recorded social security numbers in a sample of 100 beneficiaries taken during the audit. It was also revealed that 17 percent of the representatives’ payees in the sample lack a record of any social security numbers as they were noncitizens who were undocumented. It clearly proves that government benefits deserved by American citizens are going to people who are in this country illegally via the current representative payee system, and in fact, that undocumented aliens without SSNs are receiving benefits from the government when acting as representatives for their minor children.

The Response

The social security administration responded to the audit by saying that it moved to a new Electronic Representative Payee System only last year and the transfer of information of representative payee may have resulted in the applications showing as not selected or terminated. It is clear from this statement that the federal government is defending the issuance of benefits to persons and noncitizens without any social security number.

SSA said that representatives play a crucial role in the lives of the beneficiaries. SSA has about 5.7 million representative payees who are managing the annual benefits for about 8 million beneficiaries. When appointing the representative payees, the agency adheres to the guidelines of the Social Security Act.

Specific to the latest audit, the Act permits SSA to appoint an undocumented alien or an applicant who resides outside the United States with no social security numbers in certain circumstances to serve a payee. SSA also mentioned that the Act states that SSA must verify the social security number of a person or the employer identification number while investigating the payee applicant. But the act does not mention that it is mandatory to have social security numbers while serving as a payee.

The agency added that the absence of a social security number is not a criterion that prevents an individual from serving as payee.


It is quite clear that offering social security benefits without social security numbers is a problem that must be addressed but the SSA is taking the matter lightly. It is not accepting that offering $1 billion to people without social security numbers is a shocking social security fact that may shake the trust of people in the system.


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