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.
Personal identity theft affects a large and growing number of seniors. People age 65 or older are increasingly the victims of this type of crime. Identity theft can take not only an emotional toll on those who experience it, but also a financial one: two-thirds of all identity theft victims reported a direct financial loss. It can also disrupt lives, damage credit ratings and result in inaccuracies in medical records and costly false claims.
Beginning in April, 2018, new Medicare cards will begin being mailed to ALL people with Medicare. A transition period will be in effect from April 1, 2018 through December 31, 2019 where providers are able to use either the current ID structure (Social Security numbers with a letter) or the new non-descript ID numbers. This transition period is at length so Medicare provider and pharmacy operations are not interrupted and beneficiaries (those enrolled in Medicare) do not see any disruption in their care and coverage.
What will the MBI look like? CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) says CLEARLY different. First, the identifier will be eleven (11) characters in length and second, made up of only numbers and upper case letters. There will be NO special characters. These will be randomly generated and the characters will be ‘non-intelligent’, meaning there is no hidden or special meaning. This identifier change will NOT change benefits and a Medicare beneficiary can begin using the cards immediately upon receipt.
I know April 1, 2018 is a ways off, but this is definitely something to be aware of. At Health Insurance Advisor we will continue to let our clients and the Johnston community know about these changes. (Many details in this article from 2017-05-30 CMS press release, found at www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Press-releases/2017-Press-releases-items/2017-05-30.html