New Medicare Cards Coming
A Good Thing?
Identity theft is rampant in today’s world. The 2017 Identity Fraud Study, released by Javelin Strategy & Research, reports a 16% increase in the identity fraud incidence rate for 2016, affecting 15.4 million Americans with fraud losses of around $16 billion. Since microchips now make it harder to counterfeit credit cards, ‘new account’ fraud is on the rise. This is where thieves open a new credit card or bank account with stolen personal information, such as a Social Security number. The Social Security Administration even has a pamphlet about guarding your SS number. The pamphlet acknowledges the danger that “identity thieves can use your number …to apply for more credit in your name” and includes this caution – “DO NOT routinely carry your card or other documents that display your number.” Unfortunately for older Americans, this instruction is difficult to follow because Medicare cards contain Medicare numbers which include the Social Security number of the Medicare beneficiary or a relative. This is not a good thing.
Thankfully, Medicare is taking steps to remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards. CMS is doing this to prevent fraud, fight identity theft and protect essential program funding and the private healthcare and financial information of Medicare beneficiaries. Medicare will begin mailing new Medicare cards containing a new unique, randomly-assigned number called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) in April, 2018. With the concerns about identity theft noted above, this is a good thing. For the thousands of healthcare providers in America, it will be a hassle. But there is some good news on that front also. CMS is providing education and tools to make the process as easy as possible.
Here are some highlights from a recent article from CMS about the transition.
- The new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) will replace the existing Social Security-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) both on the cards and in various CMS systems.
- CMS will begin mailing new cards in April 2018. All Medicare cards will be replaced by April 2019.
- CMS is developing capabilities where healthcare providers can look up the new MBI through a secure tool at the point of service.
- There is a 21-month transition period where all healthcare providers will be able to use either the MBI or the HICN for billing purposes.
- Providers’ systems will need to be able to accept the new MBI format by April 2018, but they can continue to bill and file healthcare claims using a patient’s HICN during the transition period.
The main point of the CMS article is to relay 5 steps providers can take today to help their office or healthcare facility get ready. Here are the 5 steps verbatim from the CMS article:
- Go to our provider website and sign-up for the weekly MLN Connects® newsletter.
- Attend our quarterly calls to get more information. We’ll let you know when calls are scheduled in the MLN Connects newsletter.
- Verify all of your Medicare patients’ addresses. If the addresses you have on file are different than the Medicare address you get on electronic eligibility transactions, ask your patients to contact Social Security and update their Medicare records.
- Work with us to help your Medicare patients adjust to their new Medicare card. When available later this fall, you can display helpful information about the new Medicare cards. Hang posters about the change in your offices to help us spread the word.
- Test your system changes and work with your billing office staff to be sure your office is ready to use the new MBI format.
Here is one last link where you can find more information about the new Medicare cards - https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/SSNRI/Providers/Providers.html. Even though this may be a difficult transition for healthcare providers, I think we would all agree the good outweighs the bad.
Article by Debbie Rubio
This material was compiled to share information. MMP, Inc. is not offering legal advice. Every reasonable effort has been taken to ensure the information is accurate and useful.