Feds plan to take SSN off Medicare cards

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is readying the healthcare industry for the removal of Social Security numbers from Medicare cards by April 2019.

However, the changeover and necessary tweaks to information systems will primarily come during the next couple of years, and many providers are unaware of the immediacy of these changes.

The Cooperative Exchange, a trade association representing claims clearinghouses, is putting the word out on the new Medicare Beneficiary Identifiers, called MBIs, that will replace the SSN, and the group has much more questions for CMS than answers at this point, according to a story by Joseph Goedert written for healthdatamanagement.com.

“We don’t even really understand what their distribution strategy will be,” says Crystal Ewing, manager of data integrity at clearinghouse vendor ZirMed and chair of a Cooperative Exchange committee working through the issues.

There are about 60 million people with Medicare cards displaying a Social Security number, and CMS promises it will provide educational programs for providers and beneficiaries, Ewing says, but again, details are sparse. “Right now, all the information is extremely light on how this will be done.”

In April 2018, CMS will start generating new MBIs for all living and deceased Medicare beneficiaries, with information systems and business processes hopefully ready to accept and process the MBI. While distribution of MBIs will continue until the end of 2019, the start date is only about 18 months from now. Following a 20-month transition period, CMS will no longer accept the older cards.

The new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier will be 11 digits long and contain a combination of alpha numeric characters.