HELP LINE: Don’t panic if you don’t have new Medicare card yet

WHEN YOUR NEW Medicare card hadn’t shown up by Thanksgiving, you thought, “Oh, well … I have other things to be thankful for. Santa will probably bring it.”

When Santa crapped-out and no new Medicare card appeared, you thought, “No worries — probably by New Year’s.”

When 2019 landed with a cardless thud, you resolved not to panic.

By Valentine’s Day, that resolution (along with several dozen others) went to Handbasket Land, and now you are freaking out.


First, your old Medicare card (the one with your Social Security number on it) will continue to work until Jan. 1, 2020, so please continue with all necessary medical stuff.

Now, you’re right: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) claim that the mailing of the new cards has been completed, and because I have no reason to think that they’d lie about a thing like that, I’d conclude that the fact you haven’t received yours is a problem.

So, first:

How about that stack of unopened mail on the corner of the counter?

The new Medicare cards were sent in a plain, white envelope from the Department of Health and Human Services, so its worth tiptoeing through the junkmail.

No? OK, then sign into your account on to get your new number and print an official new card. Yes, you can do that.

No account? Please consider creating one. It can come in handy for a lot more than phantom cards.

No computer? OK, call 800-633-4227 and request a new card. Voila.

Now, somewhere along the way you might get a call from some yahoo claiming to be from Medicare, and saying that you need to activate your new card, and all you’d have to do to do this is to provide your Social Security number and bank account information … or, risk a lapse in Medicare benefits.

BS. You do not need to activate your Medicare card — now or any other time.

What you need to do is hang up as abruptly and loudly as possible, remembering that profanity might not always be inappropriate.

And, because many of you asked, nothing else has really changed with Medicare, with the obvious exceptions of 2019 out-of-pocket costs.

Yes, there is a lot of talk about a lot of things — there always is, this time of year — but nothing substantial has actually occurred, so we all continue with our Medicare business-as-usual, and try to pay attention.

If anything important happens, I’ll let you know.

And, I guess I might as well respond to the several callers who have left (more or less) the same voice-mail, which said (more or less), “Should I just cancel this long-term care policy that I’ve been paying premiums for forever?”

Here’s my straight-up answer: I have no idea, and I’ll tell you why.

First, many of the early long term care policies covered only nursing home care. If that’s the case with the one you have, and if you have no interest in being in a nursing home ever, under any circumstances then, I suppose so, but remember this: Once you cancel, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to change your mind and get it back, so think it all the way through.

The next question, of course, is: Can you afford it?

For many of us, things which were affordable once might not necessarily be affordable now, but let me repeat the same caution: If you jettison a long-term care policy, you will probably not be able to get it back.

Finally, if you have a LTC policy, take a moment to actually read it: What does it actually cover? Under what circumstances? Is there a waiting period? What are the steps to accessing benefits?

Once you know all of that (more or less), you’ll be well on your way to answering your own question.

Think the language in the policy is written in Martian? I understand. Then, call your agent/company and ask them those same questions.

Besides, it’ll give you something to do until your new Medicare card shows up.


Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information & Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing [email protected].

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