When is CMS Mailing New Medicare Cards?

Everyone knows  the Medicare program sustains the highest fraud losses of any other insurance program in the U.S. Well, CMS is attempting to repair that problem.

The Centers for Medicare &  Medicaid Services (CMS) is changing beneficiaries’ Medicare numbers from Social Security numbers to a new 11-character number referred to as a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). The new MBIs will contain numbers and uppercase letters, no special characters.

New Medicare enrollees will automatically receive cards with the new MBIs. Existing beneficiaries will receive their cards in the mail from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and can provide Medicare with their email addresses so they can be notified when their new cards are mailed.

New cards are being mailed during the month of May to beneficiaries in the following states: Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. The beneficiaries living in the remaining states and territories will receive their cards over the next year.

Important: Medicare is NOT contacting beneficiaries to verify information before mailing the new cards; they are being mailed automatically. To prevent being scammed, keep in mind that the ONLY time Medicare will call a beneficiary to ask for personal information is in 2 situations:

(1) A Medicare health or drug plan can call members of their plans.

(2) A customer service rep from Medicare can return a call when a beneficiary has called Medicare and left a message asking for a callback.

If you are not sure whether the caller is legitimate, hang up and call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)

For more information about the new Medicare card, you can visit


What’s the difference between brand name and generic drugs?

During the Medicare webinar I presented yesterday for A.D. Banker & Company, we were talking about Medicare Part D and prescription drugs. When I explained the differences between brand name and generic drugs, nearly everyone was amazed that there were differences–they thought brand name and generic drugs had to be the same, but only with different names. Wrong.

One of my students suggested I write a blog post about the subject, so, thanks to her, here is some information you may not have known:

Brand name drugs are designed and manufactured by pharmaceutical companies that obtain patents for the drug. Once the company files for the patent, no other company can manufacture the drug for the term of the patent, which is 20 years from the date of filing. These drugs are issued two names: the brand name and a generic equivalent. For example, Tylenol® is the brand name drug and its generic equivalent is acetaminophen.

Generic drugs are similar, but not identical to brand name drugs. They’re required to have the same active ingredients and different inactive ingredients. Once the brand name drug’s patent expires, other companies are able to sell the generic equivalent. That’s why your RX migraine tablet is blue and round one month, and a different shade of blue and in an oblong shape the next month–your pharmacist used generic drugs from different manufacturers when filling your prescription.


Brand name and generic drugs must:

a) Have the same ingredients

b) Have the same dosage strength and form

c) Be administered in the same way

d) Deliver similar amounts of the drug to the bloodstream


Brand name and generic drugs:

a) Must look different, as required by law

b) Must have different inactive ingredients

Generics may vary by manufacturer and usually cost less than their brand name equivalents because much the costs of R&D have been recouped by the original manufacturer during the 20-year term of the patent. Once multiple companies are legally permitted to sell the drug, the single company holding the patent now has competition, which causes the price to drop.

Sometimes the difference in inactive ingredients affects a patient, either because of their interaction with other drugs being taken or side effects. In this case, a doctor might prescribe the brand name drug, rather than its generic equivalent.

Click here to see what the FDA has to say about generic drugs. Obviously, I am not a doctor or pharmacist and you should direct your medical inquiries about the differences between brand name and generic drugs to the appropriate medical professional.

I hope you found this information interesting. Bet you didn’t know how easily so many things in our society affect the cost of insurance!


The Pitfalls of Artificial Intelligence

As if driving motor vehicles weren’t risky enough, the second fatality involving an autonomous vehicle has scientists going back to the drawing board to see where artificial intelligence failed.

The first reported fatality involving a driverless car killed a driver in Florida in 2015. This most recent fatality, which occurred in Arizona last month, involved a pedestrian and halted Uber’s use of autonomous vehicle testing on public roads in several cities.

For information about insurance legislation involving autonomous vehicles, visit the website of the National Conference of Insurance Legislatures. I wrote and teach a 3-hour insurance CE webinar for A.D. Banker and Company, Driving into the Future: Uber, Drones, and Driverless Cars if you’re interested in more information about how this technology affects the insurance industry.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (aka Drones)

Drones are hot these days. You see them flying everywhere: at the beach, in parks, and sometimes over your back yard.

Did you know drones need to be registered with the FAA to be operated legally? The reason you fly, and the weight of the drone, dictates the registration process and the fee.

If your drone weighs between .55 and 55 pounds:

And you only fly recreationally, you need to register either under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (fee is $3 for a 3-year registration). If you fly for any other reason, you need to register under the UAS Special Rule (fee is $5 for a 3-year registration).

Under the UAS Special Rule Part 107, operators must obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate issued by the FAA and meet a few other requirements.

If your drone weighs 55 pounds or more, you need to register in accordance with a paper filing process.

Generally speaking, rules for flying require drones:

(a) To be flown no higher than 400′ above the ground

(b) To be kept in the visual line-of-sight of their operators

(c) To NOT fly in restricted airspace, such as:

-1- Within 5 miles of an airport

-2- Over groups of people, stadiums hosting certain events, and public events

-3- Near emergencies, natural disaster sites, and wildfires

Keep in mind that your personal and business insurance policies may not provide coverage for your drone, or its activities. If you violate any FAA, state, or local rules for drone operation–including where you fly your drone and how you operate it–you may be subject to fines, penalties, and paying out of pocket for any damage.

Right now, how drone operators invade the privacy of other individuals is almost as hot a topic as drones, themselves, are. If your insurance policies don’t provide liability coverage for your drone’s activities, they won’t defend you if you’re sued.

For all kinds of details specific information, the FAA has a user-friendly section of its website devoted to Unmanned Aircraft Systems. For insurance information about drones, either contact your insurance agent or us. Happy flying!


Announcing: Driving into the Future: Uber, Drones, & Driverless Cars

Join us for this new insurance CE webinar, which I wrote and present for A.D. Banker & Company.

Webinar dates: 10/16, 11/3, 11/20, 12/8, and 12/18