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New Medicare Cards Offer Greater Protection

New cards will no longer contain Social Security numbers to combat fraud and illegal use

June 16, 2017

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is readying a fraud prevention initiative that removes Social Security numbers from Medicare cards to help combat identity theft and safeguard taxpayer dollars. The new cards will use a unique, randomly-assigned number called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI), to replace the Social Security-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) currently used on the Medicare card. CMS will begin mailing new cards in April 2018 and will meet the congressional deadline for replacing all Medicare cards by April 2019. 

Providers and beneficiaries will both be able to use secure look-up tools that will support quick access to MBIs when they need them. There will also be a 21-month transition period where providers will be able to use either the MBI or the HICN, further easing the transition.

Work on this initiative began many years ago and was accelerated following passage of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). CMS will assign all Medicare beneficiaries a new, unique MBI number that will contain a combination of numbers and uppercase letters. Beneficiaries will be instructed to safely and securely destroy their current Medicare cards and keep the new MBI confidential. Issuance of the new MBI will not change the benefits a Medicare beneficiary receives. 

CMS is committed to a successful transition to the MBI for people with Medicare and for the health care provider community. CMS has a website dedicated to the Social Security Removal Initiative (SSNRI) where providers can find the latest information and sign up for newsletters. CMS is also planning regular calls as a way to share updates and answer provider questions before and after the new cards are mailed beginning in April 2018. For more information, visit: https://www.cms.gov/medicare/ssnri/index.html.
 

This story originally appeared in the June 16, 2017 edition of WHA Newsletter