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Simple steps to protect yourself from Medicare fraud

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OKLAHOMA CITY- Experts say you should never carry around your social security number, but what do you do about your Medicare card?

A Medicare ID is also proof of insurance.

Beneficiaries need to show their Medicare card at the doctor's office and the hospital in order to have Medicare pay for the treatment.

So far, nothing has been done to protect patients' identity regarding your Medicare card.

Other government health systems, like the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, have already started using ID numbers that are different from social security numbers, but no one knows when Medicare will follow suit.

In the meantime, there are a few tips you can use that can help keep your Medicare card safe.

- Protect your card- AARP suggests that you don't carry your Medicare card. Most healthcare providers already have their patients in their electronic systems and know how to bill you. You will need your actual card the first time you visit a new health care provider.

If you don't feel comfortable leaving it at home, the Privacy Rights Clearing House suggests making a photocopy of your card and cutting it down to wallet size. Use scissors to cut out the last four digits of your social security number or take a black marker, cross them out and carry that instead.

If you’re worried that you’ll need your card in an emergency situation in order to get care, you should know that emergency personnel cannot refuse you care until you show an insurance card. Although you’ll need to come up with billing information before leaving a hospital, that doesn’t mean you won’t receive care.

- Lost or stolen-  If your card is lost or stolen, you can replace it by calling 800-772-1213. You can also apply online or by heading to your local Social Security office. If your card goes missing, you will need to watch for Medicare fraud. You can do that by checking your quarterly Medicare summary notices for services or supplies you did not receive. If you see something wrong, call the Inspector General's fraud hotline at 800-447-8477.

If you need help identifying Medicare fraud, contact your state Senior Medicare Patrol program or call 877-808-2468.