Sometime in the next several months Medicare beneficiaries in New York and several neighboring states will receive their Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) cards, as required by the 2015 Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act. There's little for beneficiaries to do, other than be on the lookout for their new card. But health care providers have an April 1 deadline for adjusting their eligibility and claims systems to accept the MBI.
Designed to reduce identity theft and illegal use of Medicare benefits, the new cards will replace the Social Security Number-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) currently in use. Slightly smaller than the old card and printed on plain paper, the MBI uses a randomly assigned 11-digit ID with both capital letters and numbers. The combination is “non-intelligent,” without any hidden meaning. The cards no longer contain information on gender.
For providers, CMS has a fact sheet on adapting office systems to accept the new numbers at https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/New-Medicare-Card/Providers/Providers.html.
For beneficiaries, the change should be straightforward—as long as they know that the card is coming and check their mail for its arrival. Nationwide mailing of the cards, in seven phases, begins in April, but New York is among the states in Wave 4, so cards are unlikely to be received until after the summer—or possibly later.
Enrollees in Medicare Advantage plans, Medigap plans, and drug prescription plans will continue to use the numbers assigned by these plans, which have already removed Social Security numbers. However, Medicare advises these beneficiaries to keep their MBI cards, in case they become needed. For all current beneficiaries, both the MBI and HICN may be accepted during a transition period from April 1, 2018, through December 31, 2019; people who become eligible for Medicare during this period will receive only an MBI.
Health care providers can help ease the transition by alerting their Medicare beneficiaries to check their mail for the new cards, reassuring them that benefits remain the same, asking for the new cards at every visit, and warning about the scams that will undoubtedly pop up to take advantage of consumers. Beneficiaries should know that the cards are free and that anyone who phones and claims to be from Medicare is just another scammer: Medicare does not make uninvited calls. More advice for beneficiaries and family caregivers is available at https://www.nextavenue.org/new-medicare-id-cards/. Updates will be posted on www.medicare.gov.