CMS moves ahead with new Medicare cards

CMS is moving forward with its fraud prevention initiative to remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards. New cards issued under the program will omit the Social Security numbers of Medicare beneficiaries and, instead, use a unique, randomly-assigned number called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). The new cards will be shipped by CMS beginning April 2018.

Transition

The MBI will be based upon the Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) currently used on Medicare cards. The use of an MBI in place of a Social Security number is designed to reduce both identity theft and the illegal use of Medicare benefits. The MBI will allow providers to identify beneficiaries using secure access tools. To ensure a smooth transition, there will be a 21-month overlap period where either the MBI or the HICN will be effective for looking up a beneficiary. As part of the transition, beneficiaries will be instructed how to safely and securely destroy their existing Medicare and keep their MBI confidential. The new cards will have no impact on the benefits beneficiaries receive.

Identify theft

The new Medicare card initiative was brought upon by requirements contained in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) (P.L. 114-10). The initiative is important in light of the increase in the occurrence of identity theft. Between 2012 and 2014, identify thefts among individuals 65 and older increased from 2.1 million to 2.6 million. According to CMS, two-thirds of identity theft victims report a direct financial loss.