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New Medicare cards are coming beginning this April, and, along with them, new beneficiary identifiers that don't rely on social security numbers (SSNs).

According to recent information from the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Medicare beneficiaries in 9 states, the District of Columbia, and 3 US territories will be the first to receive the new cards: Alaska, American Samoa, California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Maryland, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. CMS will begin mailing cards to those recipients in April. New cards in the remaining states and territories will be mailed beginning in June.

The new cards will feature a unique Medicare identification number that will help CMS move away from health insurance claim numbers (HICNs) that contain the beneficiary's SSN and toward a CMS-generated Medicare beneficiary identifier (MBI). The change, intended to thwart fraud, was required by provisions in the Affordable Care Act and the Small Business Jobs Act. CMS offers a guidance resource with details on the change.

According to CMS, providers can start using the MBI as soon as their patients receive the new cards and should have systems in place to accept the new number by April 2018. The changeover includes a transition period from October 2018 through December 2019, during which time CMS will accept claims using either the HICN or MBI. Once the mailings begin in April, Medicare beneficiaries will be able to check on the status of their cards on Medicare.gov.


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