Five Ways for Providers to Prepare for the New Medicare Cards

PUBLISHED: Jun 21, 2017
Relevant to: Ambulatory Care, Behavioral Health, Clinical Lab, Critical Access Hospitals, Home Health, Hospice, Hospitals, Long Term Care, Medical Office

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has published an article, “5 Ways for Healthcare Providers to Get Ready for New Medicare Cards.” The article is designed to educate providers about steps being taken to remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards. (See the StayAlert! Notice published on June 5, 2017 for additional information). CMS is encouraging providers to share the information in the article. A Spanish version is available upon request.

CMS will issue new Medicare cards with a new unique, randomly-assigned number called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) to replace the existing Social Security-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) both on the cards and in various CMS systems we use now. CMS plans to start mailing new cards to people with Medicare benefits in April 2018. All Medicare cards will be replaced by April 2019.

Based on feedback from healthcare providers, practice managers and other stakeholders, CMS is developing capabilities where doctors and other healthcare providers will be able to look up the new MBI through a secure tool at the point of service. To make this change easier for providers and their business operations, there is a 21-month transition period where all healthcare providers will be able to use either the MBI or the HICN for billing purposes.

Therefore, even though provider systems will need to be able to accept the new MBI format by April 2018, providers can continue to bill and file healthcare claims using a patient’s HICN during the transition period. CMS encourages providers to work with their billing vendor to make sure systems are updated to reflect these changes.

Beginning in April 2018, Medicare patients will come to their provider’s office with new cards in hand. To help get providers offices/healthcare facilities ready, CMS suggests five steps to take:

  1. Go to CMS’ provider website and sign-up for the weekly MLN Connects® newsletter.
  2. Attend CMS quarterly calls to get more information.
  3. Verify all Medicare patients’ addresses. If the addresses on file are different than the Medicare address providers get on electronic eligibility transactions, ask patients to contact Social Security and update their Medicare records.
  4. Work with CMS to help Medicare patients adjust to their new Medicare card. When available later this fall, display helpful information about the new Medicare cards. Hang posters about the change in your office to help CMS spread the word.
  5. Test your system changes and work with your billing office staff to be sure your office is ready to use the new MBI format.

StayAlert! is closely monitoring this topic and will publish additional notices as information is available.

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