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Medicare enrollment for 2018 has officially opened, and it’s time to decide to enroll, change your current plan, or make the switch to a Medicare Advantage plan, a healthcare plan offered by private companies contracted with Medicare to provide Part A and B benefits. Open enrollment will close on Thursday, Dec. 7, so now’s the time to go over your options and make your decision.

It’s also important to consider ways to protect yourself from identity theft. If you’ve ever lost a Social Security card, you know that feeling of panic. After all, Social Security Cards feature both your name and your Social Security number, two of the most important pieces of information an identity thief needs.

For many reasons, seniors are vulnerable to identity theft, especially since current Medicare cards have full Social Security numbers printed on them for identification. In 2015, President Obama signed a bill calling for the omission of Social Security numbers from Medicare cards to help protect seniors from such risks. There have been many similar calls for omission for years, but the sheer expense and gravity of the task was always looming.

New, modernized Medicare cards will begin mailing out in April 2018, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will continue mailing them out all through 2018 (per the bill, they have until April 2019). The new cards will feature a unique combination of letters and numbers.

In the meantime, in addition to the basic procedures like not giving out personal information to unsolicited caller, take other steps to safeguard yourself or a loved one by not carrying a Medicare care with you unless it’s necessary. You can also make copies of the card and cross out the first 5 numbers of your Social Security number (the final 4 digits are all they use to verify your identity).

It’s also wise to shred any unnecessary documents with your Social Security number on it, and ask organization or institutions if they absolutely need it (many, such as doctors, dentists, hospitals, etc. don’t require it because your insurance company has its own identification number for you).

If your current Medicare card is lost or stolen, contact Social Security about getting a new one, and you’ll receive a replacement card within 30 days. There are a few options to rush one if need be. For more information, visit or call 1-800-772-1213.

This information is provided by CarePatrol of Baltimore, a senior housing placement agency that serves the Baltimore city and county areas. If you or your loved one need to find a new home, consider talking to a CarePatrol housing placement specialist. They will sit down with you, assess your needs and financial situation, and offer the best options they can find. They are also available for tours and guidance during your final search. You can contact a specialist at (410) 844-0800, or You can also find them on Facebook at

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