New Medicare Numbers are coming.

New Medicare numbers (on a new Medicare card) are going to be sent to everyone on Medicare – but not until 2018.

The new Medicare cards will use a unique, randomly-assigned number called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI), to replace the Social Security-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) currently used on the Medicare card. Medicare will begin mailing new cards in April 2018 and will meet the congressional deadline for replacing all Medicare cards by April 2019.

You will soon be seeing lots of public service ads and radio spots talking about the upcoming change.  This move has been in the works for many years.

“We’re taking this step to protect our seniors from fraudulent use of Social Security numbers which can lead to identity theft and illegal use of Medicare benefits,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “We want to be sure that Medicare beneficiaries and healthcare providers know about these changes well in advance and have the information they need to make a seamless transition.”

Providers and Medicare beneficiaries will both be able to use secure look up tools that will support quick access to MBIs when they need them. There will also be a 21-month transition period where providers will be able to use either the MBI or the HICN further easing the transition.

Why new Medicare numbers ?

The change is being done because personal identity theft affects lots of seniors.  Incidents among seniors increased to 2.6 million from 2.1 million between 2012 and 2014, according to the most current statistics from the Department of Justice. Two-thirds of all identity theft victims reported a direct financial loss. It can also damage credit ratings and result in inaccuracies in medical records and costly false claims.

Taking social security numbers off Medicare cards is certainly a good idea, but…… many of my clients don’t read their mail – they get so much junk mail.  Is a 90-year old going to realize this change is taking place?  I can name a long list of my clients who will have a problem with this.  But we shall see.

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