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May 31, 2017

Why Medicare is replacing nearly 58 million ID cards

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CMS on Tuesday launched an outreach campaign to help Medicare providers prepare for new beneficiary identification cards.

As people live longer, meet your new Medicare patient

About the new ID cards

CMS currently uses a Health Insurance Claim Number based on beneficiaries' Social Security numbers (SSNs) to identify them in Medicare systems. But under MACRA, CMS is required to remove SSNs and replace them with a Medicare beneficiary identifier (MBI). MBI is a randomly generated 11-character consisting of numbers and uppercase letters.

CMS has until April 2019 to replace Medicare cards for the more than 57.7 million beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare. The agency said it will begin mailing new cards in April 2018. CMS said beneficiaries will be instructed to safely and securely destroy their current Medicare cards and keep the new MBI confidential.

The initiative is intended to better protect Medicare beneficiaries from identity theft. According to data from the Department of Justice, identity theft cases among people ages 65 and older rose from 2.1 million in 2012 to 2.6 million in 2014.

Transition details

In a release, CMS said the changes will take place over a 21-month transition period during which the agency will coordinate with beneficiaries, family members, hospitals, doctors, insurers, pharmacies, and state governments, which must adjust their IT systems to process crossover claims for beneficiaries who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. During that period, providers will be able to use either the new MBI or the current SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number.

CMS also said providers and beneficiaries will be able to access their MBIs via "secure look up tools."

CMS Administrator Seema Verma said, "We want to be sure that Medicare beneficiaries and health care providers know about these changes well in advance and have the information they need to make a seamless transition." 

While the change is intended to prevent identity theft, AARP's Amy Nofziger warned that fraudsters could seek to take advantage of any confusion around the transition and urged Medicare beneficiaries to ignore and report any unsolicited phone calls requesting personal details so new cards can be sent.

Nofziger said, "Your card will be automatically mailed to you" (Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press, 5/30; CMS release, 5/30).

Meet your new Medicare patient

meet your new medicare patient

From 2011 to 2030, an average of 10,000 baby boomers will age into Medicare each day. With this shift, Medicare patients will comprise more than half of inpatient volumes and be the primary source of volume growth.

Your new Medicare patients approach health care decisions differently—which means you have to approach them differently. Read the five distinctions that matter most.

Read the Brief

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