Starting in April of 2018, new Medicare ID insurance cards will be mailed out to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) and people with Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plans. But don’t be alarmed if you notice that there are some distinct differences when compared to the red, white and blue Medicare card you may currently have. If you have a Medicare Advantage (MAPD) plan, don’t throw that one out. If you have a Prescription Drug Card (PDP), don’t throw that one out, either. Keep those handy, but be on the lookout as Medicare Advantage plans may be mailing out separate, new cards later this year.
For starters, these new Medicare identification cards will not include your Social Security number. This decision was made in large part to help with preventing health care fraud and identity theft – which is one of the fastest growing crimes today. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) says when a Medicare recipient receives the new card, he or she should destroy the old card and replace it with the new. “Protect yourself by making sure no one can get your personal information from your old Medicare card.”
Social Security numbers are used for just about everything, and recent news-worthy data breaches have compromised many people’s Social Security numbers. That’s one of the reasons why Medicare is taking the digits off their Medicare cards, and replacing them with unique, randomized-11-digit IDs of both numbers and letters.
This move is also due to the regulations that are stipulated in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, which requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to remove enrollees’ Social Security numbers from all Medicare ID cards by April 2019.
Under the new system, all Medicare enrollees will instead be assigned a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier, or MBI, which will be eleven characters long, and is made up of both uppercase letters and numbers. In addition to Medicare eligibility status, these MBI numbers will also be used for billing and claims related transactions.
Unlike using an individual’s birth date or Social Security number, there are no personalized meanings associated with the new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier. Rather, these MIBs are generated randomly for each individual.
In replacing Medicare enrollees’ Social Security numbers, both Medicare and the Social Security Administration will be better able to protect your private financial and health care details, as well as your federal health care benefit and service payments.
If you don’t receive your new Medicare ID card in early 2018, don’t worry. That is because the transition period for converting over to MBI ID information will take several months. During this time, Medicare enrollees will be able to use either their new MBI or their current Social Security number-based Health Insurance Claim Number (or HICN) for Medicare related transactions that take place between April 1, 2018 and December 31, 2019
Likewise, either of these identification numbers may be used for appealing claims – and, claim status queries may be accessed with both identifiers through the end of the year 2020. As with Medicare ID cards in the past, the “effective date” of your new card corresponds with the date you were (or will be) eligible for Medicare benefits. These new ID numbers will not, however, change any of the Medicare benefits that you’re entitled to.
New red, white and blue Medicare cards will be hitting your mailbox over the next several months. Once you get it, verify the information on the card, and destroy your old one that has your Social Security number on it. Do NOT destroy your Prescription Drug Plan card, or your Medicare Advantage card. Keep either (or both) in your wallet and continue to use them as needed, but be on the lookout for new cards from your MAPD or PDP plans moving forward. This will not affect your Medicare Supplement card, if you have one.
If so, you can go to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) by clicking the link here. You can also find out more by calling your agent, if you have one. CMS and say Medicare recipients should make sure their mailing addresses are up to date. If your address needs to be corrected, contact Social Security at ssa.gov/myaccount or call 1 (800) 772-1213. TTY users can call 1 (800) 325-0778.
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Author Bio: Ben started Prepare for Medicare in 2014 to help people help people get objective answers to questions about Medicare. He’s held leadership roles at numerous Fortune 500 Medicare health insurers in product development, sales, marketing and strategy for over 20 years.