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Understanding Your Medicare Card

Understanding Your Medicare Card

The red, white and blue Medicare card is one of the most recognizable wallet cards in the country. The look of the card has changed slightly over the years, but what it means has stayed the same. When you carry the card, you are covered under the Federal Government’s Medicare program.

A sample card can be seen here. In most cases, the card shows your full first name, middle initial and surname, as well as your Medicare claim number and your Parts A and B (if applicable) effective dates.

This card is sent to you automatically 2-3 months before you turn 65 if you are already receiving Social Security. If you are not receiving Social Security, you’ll receive your card once you apply for and are granted, Medicare.  There are additional plans you can purchase to cover the gap that Medicare doesn’t pay.  Some examples are called Medigap Plan F and Medigap Plan G. We can assist you in comparing Medicare supplemental plans so you can make the best decision based on your current needs.

Your card should be carried with you at all times and presented when you go to the doctor or hospital. For doctor visits to doctors, you have seen before or regularly, you may not be required to present the card each time. But you should have it on hand in case it is requested as proof that you are a Medicare beneficiary.

This also applies to when you travel. Medicare is a national program, so you are covered when you are in other states or other parts of the country. When you travel, make sure to take your card with you so you can present it if you need medical attention.

Medicare cards come in a paper format. Many people have petitioned that they be sent in a more durable material; however, they have remained in a basic paper format. Some choose to laminate their cards, but CMS advises against that due to the possibility of it harming any built-in security in the card. Instead, they advise purchasing a plastic card holder to protect your card and make it more durable over time.


Your Medicare claim number is the number shown on your red, white and blue Medicare card. In most cases, this number is your Social Security number with a letter after it. If you are drawing Social Security through your work credits, this letter will be an ‘A’.

If you are drawing Social Security through the work credits of a spouse, your Medicare claim number will be your spouse’s Social Security number with a ‘B’ after it. If you are drawing Social Security benefits via a deceased spouse, the letter after your number will be ‘D’.

Another common letter that could appear would be ‘T’. The letter ‘T’ appearing after your Social Security number indicates that you are enrolled in Medicare but temporarily delayed receiving Social Security.

These are the most common, but there are several other possibilities of letters that will follow your Social Security to comprise your Medicare claim number.


One common question is about Medicare card replacement due to a lost, stolen or damaged card. You can request a replacement card through Social Security. You must have a Social Security online account to be able to do this online.

Receiving the card replacement will take approximately 30 days by mail. This can certainly be an inconvenience if you need it sooner than that. So, you also have the option of requesting a letter from Social Security to prove that you have coverage – the letter will arrive within about ten days. Also, you can visit a local Social Security office to get verified and get immediate proof to present a doctor.

When you replace your Medicare card, your claim number will not change. It will stay the same, as will the effective dates for Part A and Part B that are listed on your card.


In the spring of 2015, legislation was passed – and signed into law – mandating that Social Security numbers be removed as the identifying number on cards. This is in response to the increase in recent years of identity theft/fraud.

However, these changes will not happen overnight. In fact, the legislation gives Medicare up to four years to enact the changes for NEW beneficiaries and eight years to enact the changes for CURRENT Medicare beneficiaries. It is unknown whether Medicare will take that long to make these changes, but more information will come directly to Medicare beneficiaries about these changes.

With nearly 5,000 people signing up for Medicare daily, it is certainly a huge undertaking to change this. However, the legislation, while noble in intent, has come under some scrutiny for the $320 million total price tag for simply randomizing the numbers used as identifiers.

Overall, it is a prudent idea to protect your card, just as you would your Social Security card since your Medicare card has the Social Security number on it. If you suspect your information has been stolen or is lost, you should contact CMS right away, as well as monitor your credit.

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