Over 1.6 million Pennsylvania retirees receive a payment from Social Security each month on their own earning record. But Social Security is much more than just a retirement program for workers. Nationally, only about 64% of beneficiaries receive their payments as retired workers.
Another 4.2% receive benefits as non-working spouses based on the retired worker’s earnings. The remaining 32% receive benefits as disabled, survivors, or dependents.
Social Security assigns letter codes to identify under which category a recipient is qualifying for his or her benefit. The Social Security website has a list of the most frequent codes – you can find it here .
My friend qualified for Social Security on his own record as a wage earner. Thus the letter on his Medicare card is “A” – the most prevalent code. His wife did not work outside the home. She qualified for Social Security benefits as the spouse of a retired wage earner, based on her husband’s record. Thus, her card uses the letter “B” along with the Social Security number of the wage earner – her husband.
Social Security Numbers Continue to be used for Medicare ID purposes
A Dangerous Practice
Another good question is: why does the government keep showing Social Security numbers on the Medicare
cards we have to carry and use so often, given the serious threat of identity theft? Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer for that.
I do understand that changing to a new numbering system would cost the government some money and require reissuance of over 50 million cards. But exposing Medicare beneficiaries to an increased risk of identity theft is just unacceptable. Wouldn’t it be nice if Congress required a change in this dangerous practice as part of any upcoming changes to the Medicare program? If you agree, let your Congressional representatives know you care about this important financial protection issue.
In the meantime, we are stuck with seeking other ways protecting our identity and privacy. Personally, I don’t carry my original Medicare card. I carry a photocopy from which I have removed part of the Social Security number. I give my Social Security number verbally to the health care provider at the time I present the photocopy of the card and request services. I verbally give the health provider my full Medicare claim number (my SSN with the Medicare letter added). I’ve never run into any problems doing this.
Not a perfect plan, I’ll admit. But, at least it may help protect me if my wallet gets lost or stolen.