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New Cards for All Medicare Beneficiaries

Written by: Virginia Littlepage on Thursday, August 3, 2017 Posted in: Acute Care Rehab, Inpatient Rehab, Outpatient Rehab

Will the updated identification system affect your claims processing?

Yes, that’s correct. All Medicare beneficiaries will be issued new Medicare cards. That’s because the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015 requires Medicare to remove social security numbers (SSN) from all Medicare cards by April 2019. This effort, called the Social Security Number Removal Initiative (SSNRI), means new cards with new numbers for all of the nearly 60 million Medicare beneficiaries.

According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the cards will be issued starting no earlier than April 2018. Each card will contain a new Medicare beneficiary identifier (MBI) rather than the SSN-based health insurance claim number (HICN). The MBI will be used for Medicare transactions such as billing, eligibility status, and claim status.

The new cards will be provided at no cost to beneficiaries, but scammers have already begun to try to convince patients otherwise. Therefore, you may want to make your Medicare beneficiaries aware that they don’t need to do or pay anything to get their new cards.

Because the process of mailing cards will start a year in advance of the deadline and be completed in phases, it’s likely that some of your patients will have the new cards while others will continue to use the old cards. Therefore, Medicare is planning a transition period during which patients and care providers can use either the beneficiary’s HICN or MBI. CMS says the transition period will begin “no earlier than April 1, 2018 and run through Dec. 31, 2019.”

During this time, your systems will need to be able to accommodate either number. At the end of the transition period, which will be January 1, 2020, MBIs will be required (although there are a few exceptions).

In the meantime, CMS has developed a 5-step guide to help you prepare. In it, CMS recommends that you:

  1. Go to the provider website and sign up for the weekly MLN Connects®
  2. Attend quarterly calls to get more information. The calls are announced in the MLN Connects newsletter.
  3. Verify your Medicare patients’ addresses. If the addresses you have on file are different from the Medicare address you get on electronic eligibility transactions, ask your patients to contact Social Security to update their Medicare records.
  4. Help your Medicare patients adjust to their new cards. In the fall, CMS will have information for display in your offices to help spread the word.
  5. Test your system changes and work with your billing office staff to be sure your organization is ready to use the new MBI format.

If you are using an agile software system such as MediLinks, which is updated regularly to accommodate changing requirements, your system will be ready to accept MBIs by the April 2018 start of the transition period. If you don’t have MediLinks, learn about how this innovative software application can help you be ready for whatever changes may be in store.

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