John O'Connor
John O’Connor

The government has just begun its year-long rollout of new Medicare identification cards.

In an effort to deter fraud, the cards will not contain Social Security numbers. But several camps are warning that your residents could fall prey to new and improved deceptions.

In fact, AARP recently issued a scam alert that warns its members to be on the lookout for fraudsters pretending to be from the government. The Federal Trade Commission also issued a similar bulletin.

The con artists typically try to talk victims into paying for the new cards, which are free and will automatically be mailed to members’ home addresses (or in the case of your residents, to your community’s address).

To be sure, such practices are unseemly at best. But I guess it’s not too hard to see why they are starting to happen. After all, more than 55 million new Medicare cards will be mailed out between now and April 2019. For those with larceny in their hearts, such numbers represent a huge opportunity.

So what should you say to your Medicare-eligible residents? This: If they get a call from anyone claiming to be from Medicare or the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services asking for a Social Security number confirmation or to pay for a new card, they immediately should hang up. It also might be a good idea to let your staff know that such solicitations are a distinct possibility.

I suppose there is a certain irony in all of this. After all, the idea behind the new cards is to deter fraud, not to enhance it.

But the reality is that healthcare has become a big part of our economy. Most operators tap into healthcare-related funds through legitimate enterprise.

Unfortunately, there are always sketchy characters who will pry money loose by any means necessary. Even if it comes down to stealing money from little old ladies. I blame it on bad parenting.

John O’Connor is editorial director of McKnight’s Senior Living. Email him at [email protected].