RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - Medicare cards are shipping out to Pennington County's nearly 25,000 Medicare recipients.
The new cards are designed to help protect senior citizens from scams. Previously, cards contained the patients' Social Security Number making them easy targets for criminals looking to steal their identity or other personal information.
The new cards swap the Social Security Number with a randomly generated one that can be turned off and replaced if it's stolen.
"If you should you lose your wallet, or your Medicare card, historically we have never been able to give somebody a new number - we can't just change your Social Security Number," said CMS Deputy Regional Administrator Diane Moll. "Now if you lose it and you think that your Medicare card got in the wrong hands, you can call and we can issue you a brand new one so you can have a whole new number and we can shut that old card off."
Jody Gillaspie with the Division of Consumer Protection of the Attorney General's Office said the changes were needed to help protect Medicare recipients.
"Here in South Dakota we're brought up to, you know, if the phone rings that meant that somebody needed something and so we are readily able to pick that phone up and want to pick that up because, again, somebody needs something," Gillaspie said. "I think here in South Dakota and across the nation, I think elderly people are targeted heavily."
Half of the cards have already been sent out and the other half should be coming soon.
"And again you don't have to do anything. You don't have to pay for this card. There's no loss of benefits," Moll said. "It's just going to come from Health and Human services, it's a white envelope. So just open it and, like I said, if you don't get one for some reason call 1-800-Medicare and we can get one out to you right away."
It took three years to get the new cards approved and required funding from Congress.