New requirement for senior flu shots

AARP suggests carrying a photocopy of your Medicare card with the last four digits cut out.

AARP suggests carrying a photocopy of your Medicare card with the last four digits cut out.

Every year about this time I get my flu shot at the pharmacy in my supermarket. But last week when I went in for my shot, I encountered an unexpected new rule. What’s a bureaucracy without new rules?

This year they needed to see my Medicare card. I said I never carry it because it has my Social Security number on it. Besides, they’d never needed it. I was told there’s a new regulation; this year Medicare wants to see your official Medicare card before they’ll pay for the shot. (And no, the card from my Medicare Cost plan was not sufficient this time; it had to be the official red, white, and blue Medicare card.)

Fortunately, they were willing to give me the shot with my promise that I’d bring the card to them for photocopying the next time I’m in the store. Not surprisingly they’d already encountered other seniors who weren’t carrying their cards.

To be honest, I don’t know if this is a new federal regulation or if it’s always been in place and the pharmacy simply was not in compliance in the past. In any case, seniors who haven’t gotten their flu shots yet should make a point of taking their official, original Medicare cards with them when they go. Cards from other types of payment plans will not be accepted.

This incident raised again the issue of theft hazard if you routinely carry your Medicare card, so I decided to confirm what I remembered reading some years ago. AARP recommends that you photocopy your card, cut it to wallet size, and cut out the last four digits of your SS number. That way you can carry proof of coverage with you at all times without exposing yourself to possible loss or theft and subsequent identity theft. AARP says you’ll probably still need your official card the first time you visit a new provider so the provider can photocopy it for their records.

See also:

CDC information for 2014-15 flu season



Categories: Health

32 replies

  1. Of course, you do know that ‘flu vaccines are based on a best guess of what strain might be prevalent in any particular year? Vaccines are issued before the strain of ‘flu is identified.

    • Yes, I know. But I’m all for anything that can possibly lessen or prevent flu. At my age, a bout with flu could be serious and if last winter is any indication, could keep me down much longer than a young person.

    • Yeah, the past 2 years they haven’t “guessed” so well. About Nov-Dec they will announce what strains are covered, which ones aren’t, and what viruses are the most prevalent. Last year they did a big miss – and so many people chose not to get the shots that they had huge leftovers and were trying to get people to get the shots in April/May here.
      They do force all healthcare/hospital workers/nurses/docs/techs/PA to get the shots in Sept/early Oct.
      Eat veggies, exercise, boost immune system, and stay out of crowds

      • One of the many useful things I learned working with public health docs, who were of course, following the party line to get people to have ‘flu shots…

        The others were about mutating viruses coming back to bit you when you thought it had gone, and something to do with hairy noses. That last one escapes me. Luckily.

        • Hairy noses! Now that there are several ways to administer flu vaccines, a health care worker was trying to explain who should get the shots, who should get the nasal sprays….and anyone over 65 is now supposed to have 2 flu shots in sequence over a short period of time. Can it get any more confusing?
          I don’t care what anyone says whether it’s possible or not, I’m one of those people that always gets very very sick right after a flu shot (And it’s not imaginary)…hard to get motivated to go back for more. What do you do?

  2. Who knows if this is new or just not routinely remembered to do.
    Healthcare is a huge mess. (Now contract ER docs at your “network” hospital are considered “out of network” since they not employed by hospital, so in an emergency, if an ER doc treats you – look for a big bill just for you…”insurance covers 0….another win for the insurance companies…who “helped’ write this thing…insurance companies say the ER is supposed to tell you which ER docs are covered…like you have time and ability to choose in an emergency…) Try to stay well.
    Clever solution by AARP – Some places only ask for the last 4 digits of SS, though.(but then you could simply tell them those and still feel safe carrying an almost complete series of numbers)
    New rules are such fun…guess it’s part of that helping you stay healthy movement: evidence shows that problem solving is good brain exercise (giggles – sounds like you are getting prepared early. Let’s hope for a mild flu season – and no new weird strains/viral diseases showing up!)

    • Hoping not to find out the hard way how ERs work these days (but with 3 (!!) new free-standing drive-in ERs now within 1.5 miles of me, the ER scene is getting very complicated.

      And yes, hoping for a mild flu season. A lingering sinus infection kept me down for almost 10 weeks last winter. I don’t want to repeat that. Sucks to be sick!

      • Sinus infection take forever to clear – and you get so paranoid about getting another one. They last for months.
        Not sure about there, but here the new free standing ERs cost much much more than the regular ones – people are being warned on news and in all media that those may not be covered and are out of network. (there are 2 within rock throwing distance here…we’ll see how long they survive)
        It just gets more and more fun.
        The weather ought to be positively wonderful there now. Maybe a cool-ish front this weekend, but 90’s again now…turning up the AC and pretending…

        • The trick for me is recognizing early that it’s a sinus infection and getting to the doctor for antibiotics and prednisone. Even then the recovery was slow last year, much slower than in the past. Lesson learned. I don’t bounce back like I used to.

          Supposedly with my coverage there is no “out of network.” I can see who I want to see.

          Cool and cloudy here today. Sure feels like fall. They promise the 80s are over for the year. We’ll see …

  3. For what it’s worth, here’s the science about flu shots unencumbered by partisan or financial pressures.

    • I’d already added one CDC link to my post; they have many different pages of information. Everything you’d ever want to know about flu. Definitely the most authoritative source. It does appear there are now two different pneumonia vaccines though, which means I’m at least one short. Will definitely be talking to my doctor about that.

  4. In listing the possibilities about the new “we must see your card” rule, you missed one: this might actually be a CVS (rather than Medicare) rule and the person behind the counter either (a) misunderstood the info they received, or (b) put it off on Medicare so that the customer would be mad at the government and not CVS. I worked for a quarter century as a paralegal specializing in insurance and contracts and believe me, there’s nothing that some people won’t do to make their own life easier…

    • Now that’s interesting, DB. Thanks.

      It’s a little scary to think that a little pasteboard card could be that important. What if one loses the dang thing? I’m thinking it’s a good thing my skin is white and not brown, or getting a new one might be a real struggle. Given the current right-wing craziness, I could be deported!

      My social security card disappeared decades ago, perhaps disintegrating into dust in a long-forgotten wallet, but the number is now hard-wired into my brain. If there’s a heaven, that number will still be part of my soul. Now isn’t that an odd thought?

      • It does seem they should issue substantial plastic cards since we’re expected to keep them forever, but that would cost more. Somewhere while reading about all this, I saw a phone number to call to get a replacement Medicare card. I would assume there’s something similar for getting a new SS card, but I don’t recall anyone ever asking to see mine. And you’re right; these days an inquiry about a new SS card would probably draw all kinds of unwanted attention.

        • I had to have my SS card the last time I applied for a job, which surprised the heck out of me. Fortunately, I knew where it was in my files. A few years later I wasn’t so fortunate: I couldn’t find my SS card when it came time to retire, and they insisted I had to have it on me when I applied for Social Security. So I had to get a new card. To do that I had to go to the local office, take my original birth certificate and passport (which I use instead of a driver’s license), and wait several months for it to arrive. Then I had to go back to the same office, taking my passport and Social Security card, to sign up for payments.

          Here’s what was so “government” about the whole thing. That office would accept my original birth certificate and one other form of “official” ID (which included passport, drivers license, or utility bill in my name) to give me my card, but would not accept the same ID to sign me up for Social Security. And then there’s this: the nice lady behind the desk gave me a receipt when I made the application for a replacement card. That receipt was supposed to be as good as an original SS card for ANY purpose OTHER than getting Social Security. In other words, they insisted that everybody in the world trust their paperwork…except themselves.

          It was a good thing I started this process six months in advance, or I would have been late signing up. They penalize you for that…

          • Yikes, what a horror story. And I thought I was inconvenienced when the Colorado DMV wouldn’t accept a current Okla. license and my original birth certificate as proper ID for a Colo. driver’s license. I had to order a new birth certificate from Missouri and wait several weeks for it to arrive. That was in 2005. Now they’re giving licenses to undocumented aliens. Go figure.

            You’ve got me thinking now that both my SS card and Medicare card should reside in my safe deposit box. I don’t think I’ve ever had to show my SS card to get a job, although I’ve had a lot of jobs over a lot of years and might have forgotten.

            • I had to show my SS card when I opened a new savings account two years ago as well. They claimed it was part of the government’s crackdown on terrorists moving money around, but I suspected it was really just an internal rule, since I’d never had to do that before at other banks…

            • I’ve had to go through credit checks to open new bank accounts, but I’ve only been asked for my driver’s license, not my SS card. Perhaps in my part of the country they aren’t as concerned about terrorists (as evidenced by the state’s issuance of driver’s licenses to undocumented aliens).

    • Yes, it’s quite possibly a new CVS rule. It gave us both a chance to grouse about the government, and everyone loves to do that. And I’m not angry with anyone, since they gave me the shot while I was there. No inconvenience to me since I’m in there every week anyway.

  5. Had to laugh out loud when I read the beginning of this one! I just got my flu shot (an every year thing with me also) yesterday and for the second year in a row got it at a Kroger Store pharmacy where I do my grocery shopping. I, unlike you, had my card in hand and when I asked, “Don’t you need to see my Medicare Card?” they said no and I was completely perplexed! 😦

    Thanks for the information… now I feel vindicated, sort of! 🙂

  6. All health care people here require us to show the Medicare card every time we show up, including for flu shots.

“I cannot be an optimist but I am a prisoner of hope.” ~ Cornel West

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