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Health Insurance ID Cards – More than meets the eye

We hope all our readers have enjoyed wonderful holidays. Over the holidays readership declines so we are reposting educational material that remains relevant. We will have new material in early January. Happy New Year to all!

As with so many other topics that seem straightforward until we explore them further, the topic of ID cards deserves discussion. The objective with an ID card issued by an insurer or the government is for covered individuals to have current information in their possession and keep that information secure. It is clear that if you are transitioning to new coverage, you will receive a new card or cards. However, there is tremendous variation in how ID cards are issued at renewal. There is absolutely no industry standard and people should be aware of that. My husband’s insurer issues a new card every year even though the Group number and ID number don’t change.

At the other extreme, Medicare issues its flimsy paper card with the expectation that you will have it for the rest of your life. (Medicare did issue 40+ million new cards in 2018 and 2019 to move from having Social Security numbers as Medicare numbers but missed the opportunity to issue a more substantial card. Very disappointing).

On the one hand, you need to keep that ID card handy because a current card is how one proves current coverage. However, our advice is to protect the information on that card. We have seen many instances of claims processed as though services were provided to our clients when, in fact, the client’s information was compromised. This is why one is often asked to provide a photo ID at the doctor’s office.

We’ve talked about the importance of creating a portal for your coverage and another reason to do so is that you can print out a duplicate card if one is misplaced or stolen. Sometimes you can even print out a card associated with new coverage before you’ve received one in the mail. Other times you can’t do this without knowing your new ID number which you don’t yet possess. Some plans may allow you to use other identifying information, however, such as a Social Security number to create your online portal.

It is important for people taking care of others – a spouse, or children, to be aware that, as described above, some companies will issue a new card every year, some will not, some will list all dependents on a card, and some won’t list any dependents. In that situation, the card just has the subscriber’s name. Some cards include both medical and drug coverage information; others get a medical card and a drug card. Anyone going off to college needs to have an ID card and to know what information to provide to a pharmacy should a prescription need to be filled. Similarly, if you are involved with elderly parents or relatives, you should be familiar with all the cards they possess.

And let’s mention dental coverage. Perhaps there are dental cards but I’ve never been sent one although I can print out a card from my husband’s portal. Many dental claims are processed simply with the name of the company and one’s Social Security number.

Many of us end up with too many cards. It may be possible to upload an image of your card to an app on your phone or download your insurance company app to your phone in order to carry fewer cards around with you.

Today’s video is a reminder of how important health insurance ID cards are. Many providers, including hospitals, will not provide services if you don’t have a current ID card in your possession unless you agree in writing to be financially responsible for all bills AND provide a credit card. This is another reason to plan ahead when facing a transition in coverage so that you optimize having new cards in your possession when the coverage begins.

Please watch the video and spread the word about the importance of understanding healthcare coverage!