Medicare is preparing to stop using Social Security numbers for identification next year and will send new cards to patients with Medicare ID numbers. The move is required by a law enacted two years ago to discourage identity theft.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently updated its web page to help health care providers prepare for the change. The agency plans to begin mailing the new cards with Medicare beneficiary identifiers (MBIs) in April 2018. During a transition period through 2019, providers can use the MBIs or health insurance claim numbers (which are based on Social Security numbers) on transactions such as billing and claims.
The 2015 law, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, requires CMS to remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards by April 2019.
“We're now figuring out the best way to mail the cards,” the agency advised providers. “We'll keep you posted about critical information so you can be ready to ask your Medicare patients at the time of service if they have a new card with an MBI.”
CMS plans a “wide-scale outreach” to let beneficiaries know that they need to bring their new Medicare cards when they get care and how to get MBIs if they lose their cards.
AARP’s Fraud Watch Network ambassador, Frank Abagnale, advises consumers not to share Social Security numbers unnecessarily. “And don’t carry your Medicare card unless you are on your way to a health care appointment,” he wrote last year. “Instead, make a copy and black out all but the last four digits.”