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Can I Make My Medicare Card ID Theftproof?

As seen on page 36 of the September 2008 (Vol. 37, No. 9) issue of Money magazine and here as a PDF.

Can I Make My Medicare Card ID Theftproof?

Prescription MedicineQ. I know you’re not supposed to carry your Social Security card. But my SSN is on my Medicare card, which I’m told I need in my wallet. What do I do? —Pat Ohlmann, Seward, Neb.

A. Medicare does indeed insist that seniors carry the card (and the agency has, unfortunately, balked at recent calls to remove Social Security numbers, claiming high costs). But the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse offers a way to follow the rules while protecting yourself from ID thieves: Photocopy your card, cut it to wallet size and cross out the last four digits of your SSN with a marker. Carry the duplicate; leave the original at home (after your regular docs have copies).

Even if you’re taken to the E.R. in an unconscious state, a hospital has ways of looking up your info, says Diane Corrigan, CFO of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “It might delay billing, but eventually we’d be able to determine a patient’s beneficiary status.”

One hopes that this won’t be an issue for future card-holders: Both houses of Congress are considering bills that mandate unique ID numbers on new Medicare cards. –ANDREW NUSCA