Understanding Your Employee Insurance Card: Fast Facts and FAQs

December 4, 2023・6 mins read
Insurance Card

Everyone who has health insurance needs an insurance card (or equivalent) to access their covered services. Employers who provide health insurance and employees covered by their employer’s plan need to know basic information about the cards. This article answers common questions about:

  • When employees receive health insurance cards.
  • What employees need to do to receive their insurance cards or order new ones.
  • How to correct or update information or locate member IDs.
  • What employees should do if they haven’t received their dental or vision cards.

What is an insurance card?

An employee insurance card identifies you as a member of a medical, dental or vision insurance plan. It contains information that your healthcare provider needs to bill your insurance company for medical services. You’ll usually need to show your card or provide the information on it before you can get medical care.

Traditionally, health care cards were plastic and people carried them in their wallets or pocketbooks. Now, there are more options. Depending on your insurance company and the type of coverage, you may be able to print out a card on paper or download it to your phone. In some cases, you might simply provide your Social Security number.

It's a good practice to always carry your insurance card with you. If you have an emergency, your card will help you gain access to the emergency department or hospital care that you need without being billed as if you were uninsured and trying to straighten it out later. To prevent any problems or delays, keep your card up to date. You also might keep a copy in a safe place.

What information is on a health insurance card?

Typically, an insurance card will show:

  • The name of the policyholder.
  • Your name, if you’re not the main policyholder.
  • Your member ID number.
  • The group number of the employer’s plan if the insurance was provided by the employer.
  • The number of the plan.
  • The name or type of the plan, such as HMO, PPO, etc.
  • Contact information for the insurance company.

Insurance cards often also show the copay or coinsurance amount that you will need to pay out-of-pocket.

When do employees receive health insurance cards?

If the insurance carrier sends out physical ID cards, employees will typically receive them approximately 7-14 days after their application has been approved. If the company is in an open enrollment period, the insurance carriers may not send out new cards until 30 days after the effective date for employees’ new plans.

Most insurance carriers send out physical ID cards for medical coverage, but in many cases they don’t send out cards for vision or dental insurance. This is because plan members are able to use their SSN in place of their member ID numbers.

Some health insurance carriers, such as Aetna, no longer send out physical ID cards. Instead, each covered employee can access a digital ID card by creating an account on the insurance company’s member portal.

The best practice for employees is to contact their insurance carriers directly.

How can I order new insurance ID cards?

In the case of a lost insurance card, or if a card becomes too damaged to be used, an employee can request a replacement. To receive a replacement card, employees should contact their insurance carrier directly.

Alternatively, an employee can create an account on the insurance carrier’s website to access a temporary ID card to print at home or download to their phones. Member portals are also useful for conducting provider searches, viewing benefits claims, or reordering a permanent card to be sent to the employee’s home.

In many cases, insurance carriers don’t issue physical dental or vision ID cards. Employees can simply provide their SSN and/or Group Number to their provider at the time of service in place of a card. If employees have dependents on their plans, they can provide their dependents’ SSNs as well.

How do employees correct errors on their health insurance cards?

If an employee’s health insurance card has incorrect information (such as a misspelled name or wrong address), they can contact their broker to have a new card ordered. If they need to update their information after a move or a name change:

  • Employees can contact their HR department for help.
  • Some insurance companies or employer’s benefit systems let employees sign on to the insurance website or app and make the changes themselves.
  • Employees can call the insurance company using the phone number on the back of their insurance cards.
  • Insurance companies may have change-of-status forms that employees can fill out and send in by mail, fax, or email.

Some changes, such as adding a spouse or baby to an employee's plan, have deadlines, so employees should make them as quickly as possible.

How do employees find their member ID for health insurance?

Member IDs can be found on employee health insurance cards. If an employee has lost their card or hasn’t received their insurance card, they can contact their insurance carrier to find their member ID.

For dental and vision insurance, they can simply use their Social Security number (SSN) as their Member ID.

Why did an employee not receive a dental or vision insurance card?

Some dentists and vision insurance plans do not issue physical insurance cards. Some plans use a member’s SSN as their member ID number, and do not issue cards to help keep this information private.

Employees should check the information from their insurance plan to see if they can download a card from the plan’s website and print it out or store it on their phones. Usually, dental patients only need to show the card at the first visit unless their information or plan changes.

If an employee hasn’t received a card, they may be able to provide their SSN and group number to their care provider. Any dependents on their plan can also use their SSNs to get care. If employees are unable to get dental or vision care without a card, they should contact their insurer for assistance.

Keeping your insurance card or information safe but accessible

Although insurance cards no longer show Social Security numbers, they do contain important and often private information that should be protected from falling into the wrong hands. At the same time, cards should be easily accessible for health plan members to use. Storing the card virtually in an app provided by the insurance company or employer is a secure way to carry the information. For some people, carrying a physical card is more convenient and accessible, though it might not be as secure.

Managing medical benefits

Extensive employee benefits are an important recruiting tool and a great way to drive employee satisfaction. With TriNet, access to leading employee benefit plans is no longer reserved for large companies.

By leveraging the collective strength of thousands of small and medium-size businesses, TriNet can deliver access to premium-level benefits. Plus, our team of HR experts can help you and your employees with issues like insurance cards, allowing you to focus on your business.

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