CMS issues provider guidance on how to get ready for new Medicare cards

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CMS intends to replace all Medicare cards by April 2019.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is urging healthcare providers to take steps now to update their billing systems so they are ready when the agency sends new Medicare cards to beneficiaries that replace Social Security numbers with unique numbers.

The agency released the guidance (PDF) Thursday to help healthcare organizations and physician practices prepare before patients arrive with their new cards. The new cards will no longer use Social Security numbers and instead will feature a randomly assigned number known as a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). The move is meant to prevent fraud and identity theft.

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CMS intends to replace all Medicare cards by April 2019. Meanwhile, the agency is working on a process so providers can look up the new MBI via a secure tool at the point of service.

Although providers must be able to accept the new cards this April, CMS will allow for a 21-month transition period so hospitals and practices can use either the patient’s MBI or the current Social Security number-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) to bill and file healthcare claims.

To get ready for the changes, CMS recommends that providers:

  • Sign up for its weekly MLN Connects® newsletter.
  • Attend CMS quarterly calls, which will be announced in the MLN Connects newsletter.
  • Verify all of Medicare patients’ addresses. If the addresses on file are different than the Medicare address on electronic eligibility transactions, ask your patients to contact Social Security and update their Medicare records.
  • Help educate patients by hanging posters and displaying information about the new Medicare cards.
  • Test your system changes and work with your billing office staff to make sure your office is ready to use the new MBI format.

For more information about the Social Security Number Removal Initiative, visit the CMS provider page.