To remove Social Security Numbers (SSNs) from all Medicare cards, the SSNRI initiated the Medicare Access and CHIP Re-authorization Act (MACRA) of 2015. This bill was considered and passed by the House on March 26th, 2015. And with a yea-nay vote of 92-8, it was considered and passed by the Senate on April 14th, 2015. This means that the SSN based numbers would have to be replaced with a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) since the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) uses an ID Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) based with the beneficiary’s SSN.
The conditions of the passed bill are as follows:
- All beneficiaries will receive an MBI. This includes existing (currently active, deceased, or archived) and new beneficiaries. In the initial enumeration, 150 million MBIs (60 million actives and 90 million deceased or archived), will be assigned by an MBI generator
- New and redesigned Medicare cards containing the MBIs to all beneficiaries will be issued.
- The modification of systems and business processes will be needed. This means that updates are required for accommodation of receipt, transmission, display, and processing of the MBI.
Why the change?
The reason why CMS is making this massive move is mainly to save Medicare beneficiaries from medical identity theft. To protect private and federal health care benefits, financial information, and service payments in a more efficient manner, the SSN based HICN must be replaced on all Medicare cards. With 10,000 U.S. citizens enrolling in Medicare daily and the expectation of about 80 million U.S. citizens being Medicare eligible by 2035, the decision to be safe than sorry could not be more important.
Medicare beneficiaries, advocacy groups, the General Accountability Office, and Congress have all expressed the urgent necessity of removing SSNs from Medicare cards and CMS has listened to their voices. CMS explained in a press release on May 30th, 2017 that “People age 65 or older are increasingly the victims of this type of crime. Incidents among seniors increased to 2.6 million from 2.1 million between 2012 and 2014, according to the most current statistics from the Department of Justice.” This statement not only proves that SSNs do not belong out in the open but that identity thieves are evolving to a more sophisticated level as years pass by.
When will the new Medicare cards be distributed?
Making the move to the new Medicare numbers possible means that Medicare, as well as healthcare facilities, are required to adjust their systems and processes accordingly. The good news is that CMS has already started working on the adjustments and they plan for the official change to launch as early as April of 2018. CMS will begin by mailing the new Medicare cards including the MBI to all Medicare beneficiaries.
To avoid confusion with regards to the new numbers, until December 31st, 2019, CMS plans to have a transition period which allows the beneficiary to use either the HICN or MBI. During this transition period, CMS will actively monitor the widespread adoption of the new MBIs to make sure that most beneficiaries are prepared to only use MBIs by January 1st, 2020. After this transition period, there will be a few exemptions that will allow the use of the old HICNs. These exemptions are:
- Some reporting
The transition period will allow the facilities to file claims using the old HICNs, even though the systems will be adjusted to use the new MBIs by April of 2018.
How will the new MBI numbers look?
There will be a clear difference between the old HICN numbers and the new MBI numbers. All MBIs will be randomly generated, have a length of 11 characters, and will be made up of only numbers and letters.
To avoid possible confusion, the letters S, L, O, I, B, and Z will not be used. Any combination of numbers and/or letters that may be either inappropriate or offensive will not be used.
Here are some more details on how the MBI will look:
- The MBI’s 2nd, 5th, 8th, and 9th characters will always be a letter.
- Characters 1, 4, 7, 10, and 11 will always be a number.
- The 3rd and 6th characters will be a letter or a number.
Here is an example of what the new MBI will look like:
Another change to the Medicare card will be that the gender and signature line will be removed.
Although the Medicare numbers are being changed for avoiding identity theft, the MBIs are still considered Personally Identifiable Information. This means that the numbers must be protected the same way as the HICNs and the numbers can only be shared for Medicare related business.
I am worried about the transition; How will the process work?
CMS will make sure that the transition process is a smooth one. They will work with states to remove the current HICN numbers and replace them with the new MBI based Medicare cards. Beneficiaries will receive a handbook titled “2018 Medicare & You” this coming October, which will include information about the new MBI numbers. Starting as soon as September of 2017 and lasting until around April of 2019, CMS will provide robust and broad-based outreach and education to the following:
- Approximately 60 million beneficiaries, their families, advocacy groups, and caregivers
- Health Plans
- The provider community (1.5M providers)
- States and Territories
- Other business partners, including vendors
Beneficiaries will be instructed to safely and securely destroy their old Medicare cards and to replace it with the new and confidential MBI based cards upon their receiving of the new cards. CMS is working to develop a secure alternative for beneficiaries to access their new MBI when needed.
Stressed about these new Medicare changes?We can help.
Our staff is already working with software providers to ensure a smooth transition. We are currently putting internal processes in place to ensure our client and their residents are not affected negatively by this needed security measure. To learn more about how we can help please visit our website here or call 855-LTC-2600.