CMS Readies Fraud Prevention Initiative to Issue New Medicare Beneficiary Cards by April 2019.

Date posted: July 3, 2017

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is readying a fraud prevention initiative that removes Social Security numbers from Medicare cards to help combat identity theft and safeguard taxpayer dollars. The initiative is part of a larger endeavor from the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). MACRA set a congressional deadline to replace all Medicare cards by April 2019.  CMS will assign all Medicare beneficiaries a new, unique Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) number which will contain a combination of numbers and uppercase letters. Beneficiaries will be instructed to safely and securely destroy their current Medicare cards and keep their new MBI confidential. Issuing the new MBI will not change the benefits that a Medicare beneficiary presently receives. Instead, the new MBI will be designed to help protect against personal identity theft affecting a large and growing number of seniors. According to the DOJ, people aged 65 or older are increasingly victims of this type of crime. An estimated 2.6 million seniors are affected by identity theft each year. Two-thirds of all identity theft victims report a direct financial loss, along with the problems associated with disrupting lives and damaged credit ratings. Furthermore, identity theft can result in inaccuracies in medical records and costly false claims.

The new beneficiary cards will be mailed at the beginning of April 2018. The new MBI number will replace the Social Security-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) currently used on the Medicare card. Providers and beneficiaries will be able to use secure look up tools that will support quick access to MBIs when required. There will also be a 21-month transition period where providers will be able to use either the MBI or the HICN.

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