In four years, Medicare cards will no longer have Social Security numbers on them. This change is a provision under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, which President Barack Obama signed into law April 16. It’s a noteworthy change: A Social Security number is an identity thief’s holy grail, allowing them to commit numerous kinds of fraud and severely damage the victim’s credit and finances.
The law gives Medicare officials up to four years from the date the law was enacted to issue Medicare cards with a new, randomly generated identification number. Congress allocated $ 320 million to pay for the change.
About 52.3 million people are enrolled in Medicare, according to July 2013 data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the most recent available. More than 4,500 people enroll in Medicare daily, and enrollment is expected to grow to 74 million by 2025, The New York Times reports. To put that in perspective, that’s 74 million people whose Social Security numbers won’t be displayed on the cards they need to secure health care services under Medicare.
Social Security numbers have been at the center of Americans’ increasing concern over identity theft in the past few years, as numerous databases containing sensitive consumer information are infiltrated by hackers or discovered to have been exposed to the public for a period of time. This leaves people unsure of who has access to their personal data and what they could be doing with it.
Checking your credit reports and credit scores can help you spot credit fraud, but there’s also the potential a thief could be using your identity to access health care or as an alias under which they commit various crimes. Consumer advocates have underscored the importance for organizations to secure this information as best as possible and for consumers to watch out for signs of fraud. You can get your credit report summary, updated every month on Credit.com, to look for any problems that you need to address.
- Identity Theft: What You Need to Know
- How Can You Tell If Your Identity Has Been Stolen?
- What Should I Do If I’m a Victim of Identity Theft?
This article originally appeared on Credit.com.
This article by Christine DiGangi was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.