New Medicare Cards Coming Soon

Between April 2018 and April 2019, Medicare will be issuing new Medicare cards to all of its beneficiaries, approximately 60 million Americans, in an effort to cut down on identity theft and fraud. Instead of using Social Security Numbers to identify individuals, they will now be using randomly generated identification numbers, called “Medicare Beneficiary Identifiers” (MBIs), which will contain both numbers and uppercase letters and be 11 characters in length. An MBI is confidential and should be protected as personally identifiable information. Beneficiaries do not need to do anything to receive these new cards; they will be provided with them automatically and free of charge.

While this is designed to reduce instances of identity theft and fraud, consumers should be aware that there is nonetheless the potential for scammers to use this development to their advantage. They may contact Medicare beneficiaries and inform them that there is a fee that must be collected before a new card may be issued. Or perhaps they will make beneficiaries believe they will lose their benefits if the scammers’ demands are not met right away. Scammers are creative and convincing, but knowledge up front about the free rollout of new cards is the best defense against the unscrupulous.

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In anticipation of thousands of calls from beneficiaries and medical providers as a result of this change, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services has set up a website, is sending out handbooks to all beneficiaries, and has call centers ready to field questions. More information is available at https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/New-Medicare-Card/index.html.

Kit Kat

Ask Kit Kat – Vika of the Solomon Islands

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, what is a vika?

Kit Kat:  Well, it’s a giant, tree-dwelling rat that has recently been discovered in the Solomon Islands, which are located in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Papua New Guinea. Indigenous peoples had sighted it for years, but scientists could never catch a glimpse of it. That is until recently when Hikuna Judge, a ranger at the Zaira Resource Management Area on the island of Vangunu, spotted an injured, giant rat waddling away from a fallen tree. Mr. Judge joined Dr. Tyrone Lavery of the University of Queensland (Australia) in the reporting of the new species, dubbed Uromys vika. It’s been about 80 years since any new rat species have been discovered in the area.

Uromys vika is indeed quite large. It can measure up to 1.5 feet from nose to tail with a weight of nearly two pounds. It also has small ears and very wide feet, which help it navigate in the dense tropical forests of its native environment. Its tail is smooth, but it also has tiny scales, similar to an opossum’s. It is further distinguished by its preferred discarded food—ngali nuts. The vika drills a hole in the center of the nut with its teeth to extract the nut’s soft core. Then it discards the shell. Now that is known that this is the consumer of the discarded nuts, scientists will have an easier time studying it and its habits.

Researchers suspect it remained undetected for so long, because they believe there are relatively few of them. Vika is now considered critically endangered, because this particular island of Vangunu is rapidly losing rain forest to logging. The rain forest is its home. However, Dr. Lavery is hopeful. He says, ‘Now that we know it definitely exists, we can work out ways to conserve it.’ (Joanna Klein, “The Elusive Giant Coconut-Cracking Rat of the Solomon Islands,” The New York Times, Science section, Sept. 29, 2017)

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