Coming Soon: A new Medicare card that will not display a cardholder’s Social Security number (SSN).
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced it is preparing to issue Medicare cards that will use new unique numbers in place of cardholder SSNs. CMS said it would begin mailing new cards to beneficiaries in April 2018.
“We’re taking this step to protect our seniors from fraudulent use of Social Security numbers, which can lead to identity theft and illegal use of Medicare benefits,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “We want to be sure that Medicare beneficiaries and healthcare providers know about these changes well in advance and have the information they need to make a seamless transition.”
As we previously reported, CMS accelerated work on this project after President Obama signed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). To protect seniors from identity theft, the law required the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue new Medicare cards that did not display, code, or embed SSNs by April 2019.
The new cards will use a unique, randomly assigned number called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) to replace the SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) currently used on Medicare cards. CMS will assign all Medicare beneficiaries a new, unique MBI number. When beneficiaries receive their new card, they should safely and securely destroy their current Medicare card and keep their new MBI confidential. This upcoming card change will not affect a beneficiary’s Medicare benefits.
For more than a decade, we and other Federal agencies recommended taking SSNs off Medicare cards, to limit identity theft and Medicare fraud against seniors. We believe this effort will be a significant step forward to protect seniors, who are increasingly the victims of these crimes. Identity theft incidents among seniors increased to 2.6 million from 2.1 million between 2012 and 2014, according to the most recent data from the Department of Justice.
The project stalled for years, due to the time and effort needed to modernize Medicare cards. MACRA included funding and instructions for HHS to consult with the Social Security Administration to complete this important initiative.
To support a successful transition to the MBI for Medicare beneficiaries and healthcare providers, CMS has developed a Social Security Number Removal Initiative website with updated information. CMS also plans to issue reminders about the upcoming change as April 2018 approaches.