Do I have to wait for new Medicare number?

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Q. I will turn 70 soon. I have been receiving spousal Social Security benefits, but my benefits will be larger. I would rather wait to collect my benefits until Medicare gives me an alternate number because my current card has my spouse’s number. Is there a reason that I cannot wait until I have the new Medicare card to claim my own Social Security? I understand it may take Medicare a year to get new cards to everyone. Can we speed this up?
— Protecting my identity

A. Ah yes. It seems you want to protect your Social Security number by not putting it on your Medicare card.

Everyone will be getting new Medicare cards that will remove Social Security numbers by April of 2019.

“These new Medicare numbers will replace the HICN (Health Insurance Claim Number) that was on your current card,” said Jody D’Agostini, a certified financial planner with AXA Advisors/The Falcon Financial Group in Morristown. “This is to protect you from fraudulent use of your Medicare number.”

D’Agostini said the new number will be called the MBI — short for Medicare Beneficiary Identifier — and will be used for billing, claims, eligibility and the like.

The transition period goes from April 1, 2018 until Dec. 31, 2019.

D’Agostini said this process requires a complete overhaul to the existing system. Medicare expects to roll out the new cards based on geographic location beginning in April 2018. Up until December 2019, it appears they will accept either the old or the new numbers.

Now to your Social Security benefit.

D’Agostini said you can wait until age 70 to flip to your own benefits, presuming that your benefits will be larger than what you are currently collecting from the spousal benefits.

“It does not make sense to wait beyond age 70, as your Social Security benefit is would now be at its maximum,” she said. “If you continue to collect the spousal benefit, you will just be taking a reduced amount, and you will not be able to get the differential later on.”

D’Agostini said the new Medicare premium amounts are now published for 2018, and are based on projected income for 2018.

Because the process to get everyone new Medicare cards will take more than two years, she recommends you begin your higher Social Security benefit at age 70.

Email your questions to moc.p1550323516leHye1550323516noMJN1550323516@ksA1550323516. 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.