CMS is Preparing Now to Remove Social Security Numbers from Medicare Cards in 2018

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced a planned initiative to remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards to help combat identity theft. The new cards will feature a unique, randomly assigned number known as a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI), instead of the current Social Security-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN). The MBI is confidential like the HICN and should be protected as Personally Identifiable Information.

Although CMS will begin mailing new cards in April 2018—to meet the congressional deadline of replacing the cards by April 2019—it is working on an outreach campaign now to help providers get ready for the transition.

CMS reports that providers and beneficiaries will be able to use secure look-up tools to gain quick access to MBIs when they need them. In addition, to help alleviate any challenges of the transition, providers will be able to use either the MBI or the HICN until Dec. 31, 2019—a period of 21 months. 

Identity theft affects a large and growing number of seniors who are aged 65 or older. Incidents among senior increased to 2.6 million from 2.1 million between 2012 and 2014, according to the most current statistics from the Department of Justice.

CMS began working on this initiative many years ago, but the work was accelerated by the passage of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). Issuance of the new MBI will not change the benefits a Medicare beneficiary receives.

To view the website that CMS has dedicated to this Social Security Removal Initiative (SSNRI), click here. On the site, providers can find the latest information about the initiative and sign up for newsletters. 

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