Medicare to Issue New Beneficiary Cards without Social Security Numbers

In response to identity theft concerns, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will send recipients new Medicare cards starting this month. Previously, Medicare cards had the recipients’ social security numbers printed on them, risking identity theft if they were lost or stolen. Of the 1.3 million fraud cases reported to the Federal Trade Commission in 2016, 6.6 percent were related to government documents or benefits.


To address these concerns, President Obama signed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) which requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue the new cards by April 2019.

The new Medicare cards will use an alpha-numeric, randomly-generated identifier not associated with a beneficiary’s SSN. All new applicants will receive the new Medicare cards and CMS will distribute new cards to current enrollees over the next year. The card change will not affect a beneficiary’s Medicare benefits.

Medicare cards are used for Medicare transactions such as billing, eligibility status, and claim status. The new Medicare Beneficiary Identification (MBI) number may be used immediately to replace the SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN). Like the SSN, the MBI is confidential and should be protected as personally identifiable information.

In some cases, beneficiaries may want to keep their HICN, for instance, if they are in the middle of an appeal. Otherwise, beneficiaries should destroy the old card when they receive their new Medicare card.

Beneficiaries will be able to use either HICNs or MBIs to submit fee-for-service claims during the transition period, which will run through Dec. 31, 2019. During the transition period, CMS will monitor the use of HICNs and MBIs to determine if beneficiaries are ready for the transition in 2020 so Medicare operations aren’t interrupted.

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, beneficiaries will have to submit claims using MBIs with a few exceptions.

Medicare beneficiaries may use either number for Medicare plan or fee-for-service appeals. The HICN will be used indefinitely for some systems including Drug Data Processing, Risk Adjustment Processing and Encounter Data and for some reports including quality reporting, disproportionate share hospital data requests, provider statistical and reimbursement reports and accountable care organization reports.

For other services, including status claims and premium payments, either number may be used during the transition period but the MBI should be used after Jan. 1, 2020.

For more information, visit the Social Security Number Removal Initiative Website.


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