Update on New Beneficiary Medicare Cards

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Spring is here and this year, that means big changes for Medicare beneficiaries as well as their health services providers.

In just a few short weeks, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will begin to mail new Medicare cards to beneficiaries. The new cards will not show the beneficiary’s Social Security number as part of a fraud prevention initiative to reduce the risk of identity theft.

Instead, the newly-issued cards will display a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). Each MBI will have 11 characters, including numbers and upper case letters, and is randomly generated. The MBIs have no hidden meaning or “intelligence.”

Eliminating the Social Security numbers on Medicare cards will better protect private health care and financial information, as well as federal health care benefit and service payments.

New Medicare Cards – Timing

CMS plans 7 waves of distribution for the new cards. Beginning this April, the first 2 waves will occur by June, and the remaining 5 waves are scheduled after June 2018. Card distribution will happen on a flow basis based on geographic location and other factors.

For Medicare providers, there is a transition period where either the prior Medicare beneficiary’s identification number or the MBI may be used to exchange data with CMS. This transition period begins on April 1, 2018 and will extend through December 31, 2019.

During this transition period, CMS will monitor use of old vs. new identification numbers as well as transition and adjustment to the new MBIs to make sure everyone is ready to use only MBIs by January, 2020. Beginning January 1, 2020, only MBIs may be used on claims (with a few exceptions) – no matter what the date of service is.

Read more about the transition to MBIs in this CMS.gov overview.

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