What you need to know now about new Medicare cards

February 19, 2018

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is removing Social Security Numbers (SSN) from Medicare cards to prevent fraud and fight identity theft. Make sure your practice is ready by April 1 for the change!

The AMA has arranged for a CMS briefing on the new Medicare card on Feb. 21 from 2-3 pm CT. It will include time for Q & A.

The current SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) will be replaced by a new 11-character Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). The MBI will contain letters and numbers – see sample on this page.

You’ll use the new number for:

  • Checking eligibility status
  • Filing claims and billing
  • Checking claim status

CMS will start mailing Medicare cards with new MBIs to Medicare patients on April 1, and the rollout will be completed by April 1, 2019. Check out Medicare’s card mailing strategy to see the rollout timing for your state.

What your practice should do now to prepare:

1. Communicate with your Medicare patients.

  • Educate patients about the new card using CMS flyers, handouts and posters, which are available in multiple languages. CMS also has suggested language to use with patients.
  • Ask patients to verify their mailing address. Patients won't get a new card if their address isn't correct. If the address you have on file is different than the address you get in electronic eligibility transaction responses, encourage Medicare patients to correct their address in Medicare's records by either:
    • Calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213, or going to their online account at www.ssa.gov/myaccount.
    • Calling the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) at 1-877-772-5772 for patients who qualify for Medicare under the RRB.

2. You must be ready to accept the MBI beginning April 1.

  • Your systems must be ready to accept the new MBI by April 1, because patients new to Medicare after April 1 will only get a card with the MBI.
  • There will be a transition period from April 1 to December 31, 2019 when you can use either the HICN or the MBI to submit claims for patients who are not new to Medicare.
  • Check with your software vendors to ensure that an 11-character alpha-numeric MBI can replace the current HICN in your systems.
  • Ask your billing and office staff if your systems will be ready.
  • If you use vendors to bill Medicare, ask them about their MBI system changes and make sure they are ready.
  • Consider automatically accepting the new MBI from the remittance advice (835) transaction. 
    • Update your practice management system's patient numbers to automatically accept the new MBI from the remittance advice (835) transaction.
    • Beginning in October 2018 through the transition period, CMS will also return your patient's MBI on every electronic remittance advice for claims you submit with a valid and active HICN. 
  • Prepare to process RRB claims:
    • You'll no longer be able to distinguish RRB patients by the number on the new Medicare card. You’ll be able to identify them instead by the RRB logo on their card, and Medicare will return a message on the eligibility transaction response for an RRB patient that says "Railroad Retirement Medicare Beneficiary".
    • Ensure your staff can identify the RRB Medicare card; program your system to send these patients' claims to the Specialty Medicare Administrative Contractor.