If you’re like us, you’re constantly trying to declutter — whether it’s rearranging your home, cleaning your car, or organizing your wallet. But should you be getting rid of your paper health insurance card?
It’s up for debate — and ultimately up to you.
There is significant disagreement about whether you should or should not carry your health insurance card on your person. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you make an informed decision about carrying your health insurance card, including:
- Pros and cons of carrying your health insurance cards in your wallet
- Alternatives to keeping your card on your person
- The different types of insurance cards you may receive
- An explanation of what information an insurance card has
- Special tips for Medicare holders
Before we get started, it's always a good idea to compare health insurance rates to ensure you're getting the best deal. Our free search tool can help you do just that.
Pros and Cons of Carrying Your Health Insurance Cards in Your Wallet
While carrying your health insurance card on your person can be convenient when dealing with a healthcare or medical provider, it can also be quite risky in the case of loss or theft.
- Easily accessible – Having your insurance card with you is the surest way to make a medical treatment go smoothly with easy access to your information. However, if you have an emergency and don’t have your insurance card on you, you can still receive emergency treatment. Some doctor’s offices may be able to look up your insurance information in an online database if you’ve been to another office in the same network.
- Access to contact information – If you need to call your insurance company for a quick question, having your card with you allows you to do so from anywhere. Most insurance cards list the phone number you need to call with questions on the back of the card so you can get in touch quickly and conveniently.
- Prevention of billing problems – In some situations, if you don’t have access to your health card you may have to pay an entire medical bill and then request reimbursement from your insurance company if you weren’t able to present the card at the time of treatment. Furthermore, because your card typically notes the level of benefits you have, you’ll want to have it on you to provide accurate information and costs of care to your doctor.
- Fraud – Medical identity fraud has become a frequent crime in the last decade. If your insurance card is stolen, it provides the thief with opportunities to use your information to visit a doctor, fill a prescription, purchase medical equipment, or file false claims in your name. Many people don't even know it's happening until there’s a huge mess to clean up.
- Access to personal information – Not only is your insurance card an avenue for medical identity fraud but it also opens you up to many other types of identity theft. Think about the goldmine of information a thief can find on one little card. It might list the names of your family members, your employer, and your full name. Those tidbits can open the door to big problems for you down the line.
- Jeopardy of your care – While it may seem crazy, imagine someone steals your health insurance card, uses your information to get plan benefits or treatment, and while they are at the doctor they state that they are allergic to a certain type of medication. When the real you goes to the doctor, the wrong information will then be associated with your health plan. If you aren’t really allergic to that medication or, worse, if you do have an allergy to certain treatments, your doctor needs the right information about you to provide you with the correct medical treatment.
Alternatives to Always Carrying Your Health Insurance Cards in Your Wallet
If you’re worried about what can happen if you carry your card with you and it’s lost or stolen, there are some alternatives. You can reduce the risk associated with carrying your insurance card with you at all times by:
- Creating a digital ID card – Many insurance companies are jumping aboard the digital train and offering digital versions of insurance cards for their members. These are convenient and secure as they often require a login on your phone to open the application.
- Carrying it only when needed – Another action you can take is to only carry your card with you when you need it. You can set a reminder on your phone or make a note on your calendar so that you remember to grab your card before you leave for a doctor’s appointment. The downside to this is you won’t have your card with you in case of an emergency.
- Keeping a copy at home – Another highly recommended step you can take is to make a photocopy of your insurance cards and keep the copies in a secure place in your home. If you do lose your card, you’ll be able to access all the information necessary to notify your insurance company so they can be on the lookout for fraudulent activity.
How Many Different Insurance Cards Should You Have?
The number of cards you have will vary depending on your insurance company. Some insurers will provide you with one card with your medical and prescription coverage information on it. If you have a separate dental, vision, or other insurance coverage, you’ll likely have several different cards. To avoid losing them, try keeping all your cards together in one safe and secure place.
What Information Does the Typical Health Insurance Card Have?
Picture the front of your insurance card. Can you identify all of the information on it? Do you know the meaning of each code and number sequence?
If not, don’t worry, the following information outlines the information found on most insurance cards (just keep in mind that every insurance company’s card might look a little different):
- Your name and any dependants – If you’re the primary insured, your name will appear first. If your spouse is the primary holder, your name will likely be listed just under their name. If you have other dependents, they’ll also be listed unless your dependents are covered separately on a child-only health insurance plan.
- Name of your insurance company – The name of your insurance company is listed on the front of the card, generally at the top.
- Insurance group number – If you have health insurance through your place of employment, the group number tells your doctor the type of plan you have and the group you’re a part of. Sometimes, you’ll receive a certain discount on services for being part of an insurance group. These are typically negotiated by your employer as part of their agreement with the insurance company. If your insurance is through the healthcare marketplace instead, you probably won’t have a group number.
- Insurance policy or member ID number – This tells the provider which plans you have. For example, there are often bronze, silver, and gold plans. Each plan offers different levels of coverage and benefits.
- Type of plan – There are also many different types of plans out there. The most common include Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO), and High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP). The type of plan you have dictates which doctors you can see and how much you’ll pay for services.
- Coinsurance or copayment – The copay or coinsurance amount is what you’ll pay out of pocket for care. It’s typically a set amount, such as $20, or a percentage of the total cost of care. This is usually required to be paid at the time you receive services.
- Prescription benefits – Some insurance cards list the pharmacy network your plan covers as well. This makes it easier for your doctor to call in a prescription for you and tells you how much you can expect to pay.
- Phone numbers – Finally, the back of your insurance card lists useful phone numbers. There’s typically a phone number you or your doctor can call with questions about your coverage. Sometimes, there’s a second phone number specifically for billing-related issues.
If you receive your health insurance through Medicare, the information will look a little different than a card from an insurance company. For example, instead of a plan number or type, the card will indicate the type of Medicare coverage you have (A, B, etc.).
Additionally, current Medicare cards no longer list your social security number. Instead, you’re assigned a Medicare number which is used as your primary identifier. This policy helps to protect your personal information in the case of identity theft or fraud.
You can find out all about Medicare and Medicare supplement insurance with our comprehensive guide.
Find the Best Insurance To Suit Your Needs
While there are several advantages and disadvantages to keeping your insurance card on your person that you must consider, there’s no question when it comes to finding the best information and rates.
You can find the best insurance rates for your needs right here.
Our free tool allows you to search for the best policies and prices from the nation’s top insurance providers. Get started today.