The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 requires Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) to remove Social Security Numbers (“SSNs”) from all Medicare cards. Physicians currently use a SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number (“HICN”) for Medicare transactions like billing, eligibility status, and claim status. Starting April 1, 2018, CMS will begin mailing new cards with a randomly assigned Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (“MBI”) to replace the existing HICN. All Medicare cards will be replaced by April 1, 2019, affecting approximately 57.7 million beneficiaries.
The initiative is intended to better protect private health care and financial information; however, many physicians are unclear as to their responsibilities to ensure that billing privileges aren’t affected. Although CMS has designated the time period running from April 1, 2018 through December 31, 2019 as a transition period, during which physicians may use either the HICN or MBI in Medicare transactions, physician systems must be able to accept the new MBI format by April 1, 2018, which is the beginning of the transition period.
Earlier this month, CMS released a five-point bulletin on steps physicians can take to prepare for the change. CMS advises physicians to do the following:
- Go to CMS’ provider website and sign up for the weekly MLN Connects newsletter;
- Attend CMS’ quarterly calls to get more information;
- Verify all Medicare patients’ addresses. If the addresses on file are different than the Medicare addresses on electronic eligibility transactions, ask patients to contact Social Security and update their Medicare records;
- Work with CMS to help patients adjust to their new Medicare cards. When available later this fall, display helpful information about the new Medicare cards; and
- Test system changes and work with billing office staff to be sure the office is ready to use the new MBI format.