Do I have to share my Medicare number?

Ask NJMoneyHelp

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Q. Medicare kicks in for me Dec. 1. I’ve deferred Part B due to coverage through my hubby, but Part A coverage is automatic. I do not want to give my healthcare providers my Medicare number because, until Medicare gets around to replacing my card, it’s the same as my Social Security number. I just hate that and have fiercely guarded my number until now. What can I do?
— Trying to be safe

A. You’re smart to want to keep your Social Security number safe. The change for Medicare cards is long overdue.

Let’s talk this one through.

First, will you continue to have full coverage through your husband?

“If so, I don’t see a reason to disclose your new Medicare card,” said Nancy Heslin Reading, an estate planning attorney with Reading Law Firm in Newton. “However, very often, the fine print on the employee medical benefits says that they lapse as soon as the beneficiary turns 65 and is eligible for Medicare.”

She said your first phone call should be to the human resources department at your husband’s place of employment to find out what happens – if anything – the day you turn 65.

Reading said it’s possible your coverage will remain in place for all your medical needs – hospitalization, doctor’s visits, medical testing and prescription drugs. But, she said, the opposite is also possible: that your coverage will be cut off.

“If the employer intends to cut off benefits, you should receive letters in the mail very soon advising you of the need to obtain your own medical coverage,” she said. “If it is necessary to buy your own insurance, then you definitely will need to provide your Medicare card with its Social Security number to your doctors if you receive medical care.”

Reading recommends you get Medicare Parts A, B and D because that will afford you full coverage.

Also, she said, you should purchase a “supplemental” insurance policy to cover your co-pays and deductibles, which she calls “invaluable.”

“In the alternative, you can elect to go with Medicare Advantage which is an HMO plan,” she said.

She recommends you educate yourself before making any decisions, and definitely avail yourself of your county’s Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP) office if you find the process overwhelming.

You should also consider what this all means to your tax return, said Catherine Romania, an estate planning attorney with Witman Stadtmauer in Florham Park.

Your health insurance company requires your Social Security number because under the Affordable Care Act, it is required to provide Form 1095-B Health Coverage to you and to the Internal Revenue Service, and your Social Security number is required to complete Form 1095-B, she said.

“Presently your Medicare number and Social Security number are identical but that will soon change in order to provide greater protection of your Social Security number and prevent identity theft,” Romania said. “It will not change the fact that you may still have to provide your health insurance company with your Social Security number.”

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NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.