In an attempt to prevent fraud and fight identity theft, Medicare is issuing new identification cards to beneficiaries next year that no longer carry their Social Security numbers. Considering that your practice likely uses these cards to make sure you include the right insurance information and patient identifier on claims, this change will affect you too.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (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). CMS will start mailing new cards to Medicare beneficiaries in April 2018 and replace all Medicare cards by April 2019.
Your practice systems will need to be able to accept the new MBI format by next April, CMS encourages you to work with your billing vendor to make sure that your system is updated to reflect these changes.
However, to make this change easier for you and your business operations, there is a 21-month transition period during which all health care professionals will be able to use either the MBI or the HICN for billing purposes. CMS will also soon allow health care professionals to look up a patient’s new MBI through a secure tool at the point of service.
So, here are five steps you can take today to help your office get ready:
2. Attend CMS’s quarterly calls to get more information. CMS will let you know when calls are scheduled in the MLN Connects newsletter.
3. Verify all your Medicare patients’ addresses. If the addresses you have on file are different than the Medicare address you get on electronic eligibility transactions, ask your patients to contact Social Security and update their Medicare records.
4. Work with CMS to help your Medicare patients adjust to their new Medicare card. This fall Medicare will issue posters and other helpful information about the new Medicare cards that you can hang in your offices.
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.
To learn more, visit: cms.gov/Medicare/SSNRI/Providers/Providers.html.
– Kent Moore, Senior Strategist for Physician Payment for the American Academy of Family Physicians
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