What You Should Know About Your Medicare Card

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There are many things to know about Medicare cards. We explain who qualifies for a Medicare card, what information is written on the card, and when to carry the card with you. Learn also about Medicare fraud protection, how to replace a Medicare card, and what to do if your name changes.

What is on Your Medicare Card?

As a Medicare beneficiary, you are issued a red, white, and blue Medicare card. Your Medicare card displays your government-acknowledged name and Medicare claims number. It tells you what type of Medicare coverage you have: hospital (Part A) and/or medical (Part B). You will also see when your coverage began. It is very important that you check these three pieces of information for accuracy as soon as you receive your card.

The name on your card will be used as your official name for any Supplement, Advantage, or Prescription Plans you will purchase. It will also be the name under which your services will be billed. Make sure your name is correct, and if it is not, notify Social Security at once. When you receive a medical service, the doctor or hospital may ask you to display your Medicare card as proof of insurance.

Until recently, the Medicare claim number on your card was the same as your Social Security number (SSN), increasing the possibility of identity fraud if your Medicare card was ever lost or stolen. In 2015, President Obama signed a bill into law that would remove SSNs from new Medicare cards and replace them with a unique number. By early 2020, most Medicare cards were replaced and now cards are issued with a safer number.

Are Medicare Advantage Plan cards different? Are Medigap Plan cards different? Are Medicare Part D cards different?
Medicare Advantage Plans replace Original Medicare as your primary insurance provider and are underwritten by Medicare-approved insurance companies that issue unique cards. Advantage Plan cards use your name as printed on your original Medicare card but they have an individual member number.


Included on your card will be the name of the company that has issued the card and a, their customer service number, the name and type of the plan you enrolled in, whether drug coverage is included, and the CMS plan number. This card will take the place of your Medicare card. When obtaining medical services, you will only need your Advantage Plan card for proof of coverage so it is unnecessary to carry your Medicare card.

Medigap cards will have the same information on them as the Advantage plan cards. The information will include the name of the company, type of plan, and customer service number. Cards issued for Part D prescription drug plans will follow the same basic format as that of the Advantage and Medigap cards.

Who Receives a Medicare Card?

Initial enrollment in Medicare should be automatic if you are turning 65 and receiving Social Security Administration (SSA) benefits or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits before you are 65. You should receive your Medicare Card by mail approximately three months before you turn 65. If you do not receive it early, call Social Security (they handle Medicare enrollment) at (800) 772-1213.

Enrollment occurs on the first day of your birth month, or the first day of the previous month if your birthday falls on the first day of the month.

Those who qualify for Medicare prior to turning 65 because they are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) will be automatically enrolled in Medicare on the first day of the 25th month of disability benefits.

If your qualification is because of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), your Medicare will begin the first day of the month your disability benefits begin. With either SSDI or ALS, your card should arrive three months before coverage begins.

Those receiving automatic enrollment in Medicare will be enrolled in hospital Part A and medical Part B services. This is important to note because Part B has a monthly premium ($170.10 for 2022).

You may choose to delay your Part B coverage before it begins by calling Social Security. If you delay your Part B and will not have a special enrollment period (SEP) in the future, you may pay Part B penalties and have a delay in coverage when you enroll in the future.

If you are age 65 or older, you or your spouse are still working, and you are covered under an employer group health plan, you may not need to apply for Medicare insurance (Part B). You may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) that will include Part B if:

  • During any month you remain covered under the group health plan and you or your spouse’s current employment continues; or
  • In the eight-month period that begins with the month after your group health plan coverage or the current employment it is based on ends, whichever comes first. 

If you’re not automatically enrolled in Medicare

If you’re not yet receiving retirement benefits when you turn 65, you may manually sign up for Medicare Part A and/or Part B. You can do so during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), the seven-month period that starts three months before your 65th birthday, includes your birthday month, and ends three months later. Your Medicare card will arrive within 30 days after you enroll.

Manual Enrollment

Manual enrollment is simple and can be accomplished in several ways. Apply online at www.SSA.gov. If you’re not yet ready to receive retirement benefits, you can enroll in Medicare only.

  • Call the Social Security Administration at 1(800)772-1213, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.. TTY users can call 1(800)325-0778. Here is more For information on contacting Social Security. see
  • Visit a Social Security office in person to enroll. If you worked for a railroad, call the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) to sign up. You can reach the RRB at 1(877)772-5772, Monday through Friday, . If you’re a TTY user, call 1(312)751-4701.

The preferred way is to create a Social Security account. You can sign up for Medicare and make changes to your existing coverage. Each change will trigger a new card to be issued and mailed to your current address on file with Social Security.

How Do You Use Your Medicare Card?

When you receive medical services or prescription drugs from the pharmacy the proper cards must be presented.

  • Original Medicare A and B only: Present your red, white, and blue Medicare card along with a picture ID.
  • IMedigap, and/or a Prescription Drug Plan (PDP): Bring your Medicare card, picture ID, and your Medigap or PDP card.
  • Medicare Advantage Plan: Present your Medicare Advantage card and picture ID.

Should You Carry Your Medicare Card With You?

You will need your Medicare card and the card issued by your Supplement carrier to have your services correctly billed. When you have a Medicare Supplement plan you are dependent upon Original Medicare as your primary coverage and your Supplement also known as Medigap coverage is secondary.

When is it not necessary to carry your Medicare card?

When obtaining medical services, you will only need your Advantage Plan card for proof of coverage. It is unnecessary to carry your Medicare card since Medicare Advantage Plans replace Original Medicare as your primary insurance provider. Medicare Advantage Plans have a unique card which details your coverage and takes the place of your Medicare card.

Do I need more than my Medicare card for proof of coverage?

In most cases, you will need a photo ID to go along with the insurance coverage cards you present. If you are on original Medicare your Medicare card will be enough. If you have a Medigap or PDP Plan you will also need the card for this coverage. If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, the Advantage Plan card is sufficient for proof of coverage.

How do you replace a lost or stolen Medicare card?

Whether the dog ate your card, it was stolen, or you simply lost it, replacing your Medicare card is a simple process.

If your Original Medicare card has been lost, stolen, or destroyed, Social Security can replace your Medicare card when you create an account. Once an account is created you can log in to the Medicare website. Here you can find your Medicare number, view and print your card, or order a new one to be sent to your address on record. Your card will arrive within 30 days from the time you order it.

You may also replace your Medicare card by calling Medicare at (800) 633-4227. TTY: (877) 486-2048.

When you join a Medicare Advantage plan or PDP, a Medicare-approved private insurance company will administer your account. You will receive a member ID card from the insurance provider. If a new card is needed, contact your insurance plan carrier, and the customer service department will let you know how to obtain a replacement card.

Your plan’s phone number can be located by logging into your myMedicare.gov account or telephoning Medicare at (800) 633-4227. TTY: (877) 486-2048.

Learn about how to replace your Medicare card.How do you update your Medicare card if your name changes?

If your name changes, follow the instructions above for a replacement card, whether you are dealing with your Original Medicare, Medigap, Advantage Plan, or PDP.

How Do You Protect Your Medicare Card and Number?

Always keep your Medicare card safe as it is an important form of identification. If you carry your card with you, keep it in a purse or wallet that is secure.

Since the card is made of paper it is easily torn or mutilated, so many people laminate their card. This may make it difficult for your providers to scan the information clearly and they may ask you to replace it. It is better to place the card in a plastic ID holder which can be obtained at local office supply stores or online from many suppliers. What should you do if you think someone is trying to scam you using your Medicare information?

Medicare fraud protection is essential and scams are a real concern. You should never give your Medicare number to anyone you have not been able to verify. If you feel your Medicare number has been compromised you have a few options:

  • Contact Medicare at 1(800) MEDICARE (1(800)633-4227); TTY users call 1(877) 486-2048.
  • Call the fraud hotline of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General at 1(800) HHS-TIPS (1 (800) 447-8477). TTY users can call 1(800)377-4950.
  • Download the pamphlet Protecting Yourself & Medicare from Fraud from The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
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Medicare consultant

Ron Elledge is an accomplished Medicare agent, planner, and author. Elledge earned a bachelor’s degree in Bible theology from International Seminary and spent 30 years in pastoral ministry. He began his current career in insurance with a specialty in Medicare in 2008 and has since authored “Medicare Made Easy: What Expats, Frequent Travelers and You Need to Know” and is often a featured speaker at the International Living conferences. Elledge is a contributor to International Living, supporting Medicare beneficiaries with articles, podcasts, and Q&As.

A licensed seniors market insurance agent in Arizona and New Mexico, Elledge has helped thousands decipher the intricacies of Medicare rules and regulations, enabling them to make educated selections for their health care needs. As a world traveler with his wife, Shelli, Elledge specializes in Medicare for expats and frequent travelers. He’s up to date with Medicare regulations, coverage options, and enrollment protocols and is fervent in his resolve to present trustworthy data on this confusing and often maligned program.

“By obtaining dependable details on how to read their Medicare options, recipients can plan for it correctly and make the best choices,” says Elledge. “These choices often make a huge financial and emotional difference in their futures. When Medicare is correctly utilized, it becomes a powerful financial and medical tool for all who qualify.”

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