CMS to Remove all Social Security Numbers from Medicare Cards by April 2019
October 6, 2016 02:26 PM
Social Security Numbers (SSN) will be removed from all Medicare cards by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) no later than April 2019, in accordance with the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015. CMS is calling this the Social Security Number Removal Initiative (SSNRI).
The SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) will be replaced with a new randomly generated Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) on the new Medicare cards for transactions like claim status and eligibility status and billing. The new system will assign the new MBI to each beneficiary and send them a new Medicare card.
Like the SSN, the MBI is confidential and all parties protect it as Personally Identifiable Information. CMS believes the SSNRI and its new system will enable it to better protect private health care and financial information, as well as federal health care benefit and service payments.
CMS has already begun work on the SSNRI and wants providers to shift to the new MBI by April 2018 – only a year-and-a-half from this writing. By that April 2018 date, CMS hopes to begin sending the new Medicare cards with the MBI to all Medicare beneficiaries. No cards will be sent out before April 2018. Providers will be able to use either the HICN or the MBI to exchange data during a transition period beginning no earlier than April 1, 2018 and ending at midnight December 31, 2019.
The new MBI will be 11 characters in length and should be clearly distinguishable from existing HICN. In addition, the new MBI will contain no special characters, being made up entirely of numbers and uppercase letters.
CMS urges providers to examine their management systems to determine what changes they need to make to use the randomly generated MBI and put those changes into place by April 2018 – before the first new Medicare cards are sent to beneficiaries. If providers use vendors to bill Medicare, they should contact those vendors and inquire about their MBI practice management systems.
Providers should ask patients at the time of service if they have received their new MBI Medicare cards. During the transition period, if providers submit a claim using the patients’ HICN, CMS will return the MBI on the remittance advice. CMS will use the message field on the eligibility transaction responses to inform providers when a new Medicare card has been sent to each beneficiary.
Providers may use the MBI or HICN to check Medicare eligibility during the transition period, but may only use MBI after the transition period ends. When filing appeals, providers should use the MBI or HICN used to submit the claim originally, even after the transition period ends.
During the transition period, providers may use either the HICN or MBI – but not both -- in the same field where they have always entered the HICN and CMS will return the MBI on the remittance advice for all submitted claims.
Beneficiaries will be able to use their new Medicare cards and MBI immediately upon receiving them and there will be no change to their Medicare benefits. Providers should use the MBI as soon as their patients receive their new Medicare cards, but CMS will accept HICN or MBI during the transition period. However, all providers must be ready to accept the MBI by April 2018.
NAHC Report will continue to monitor this issue for updates so stay tuned. You may also want to periodically check the SSNRI page for providers.