Medicare is Finally Upgrading Your Card – Here’s Everything you Need to Know…

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This story was originally posted on April 26, 2017 and was last updated on July 17, 2017.

Be mindful of the new scams out there if you currently have Medicare. New Medicare cards are being mailed out and, along with them, new scams have started circulating.

Do not give your payment information or Medicare number (same as your social security number) to anyone who calls and threatens to cancel your benefits if you don’t provide your information. There is no cost for your new card, and Medicare will never call to verify your Medicare number.

We know that dealing with any changes or paperwork in your Medicare enrollment and benefits can be difficult. So we are here to help clarify what you need to do with the newly-upgraded Medicare cards.

First things first, what is the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization? MACRA, also referred to as the Social Security Number Removal Initiative (SSNRI), was signed by President Obama in 2015 and requires The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to remove Social Security Numbers from your Medicare cards by April 2019.

The new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) will replace the previous SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) on all Medicare cards. The MBI will be comprised of 11 characters, and made up of numbers and uppercase letters. Under the new system, CMS will assign a new MBI to each Medicare recipient and send out a new Medicare card by April 2019. MBIs will not have any effect on Medicare benefits. This will not cost you any out-of-pocket expenses.

You may be asking: Why is CMS changing from the HICN to the MBI? The National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association estimates that 3 percent of annual healthcare spending ends up going to fraud. Meanwhile others, such as the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, estimate that as much as 8 to 10 percent of annual spending goes to fraud. This new change will remove your social security number from the equation to help prevent identity theft and protect the privacy of health and financial information.

With healthcare fraud being such a prevalent issue in the United States today, it is important to make sure that you take all precautions when using something with personal information on it such as the current Medicare cards.

AARP’s fraud expert, Frank Abagnale (yes, of Catch Me if You Can fame), has recommended that you only carry your original card with you when you are on the way to a medical appointment. An easy alternative to carrying the card with you is to make a copy of your Medicare card and either black out or cut out all but the last four digits of you social security number on that copy of your card.

Some other basic ways to help prevent and watch for fraud include:

  • Never give out your Medicare or Social Security number (SSN) to get a free offer or a free gift.
  • Check all of your statements for services or equipment for errors, just like you would a credit card bill.
  • If you own a smart phone, protect it with a password, especially if you your personal information on it.
  • Do not give out any of your personal information over the phone, Internet, or mail unless you initiated the conversation about it.
  • You do not need to verify your SSN over the phone.
  • Safeguard the new card the same as you did with your previous card.

If you are contacted by someone who claims to be from Medicare or a financial institute, do not respond. Instead, make sure you contact them back on a number you know is correct and report what just happened.

While such tips should be significant in helping prevent insurance fraud, providers are still requesting that the CMS increase its outreach to physicians to inform them how the billing process will change. Providers will have to update their electronic health record (EHR) systems in order to accept the new MBIs. After the transition period, which will be from April 2018 through December 2019, doctors will have to update their EHR systems in order to accept the new MBIs’ billing system.

There is concern about doctors having to turn patients away if the EHR system isn’t updated or if the patient doesn’t know his or her new MBI number. It was suggested during a Health and Human Services Advisory Panel on Outreach and Education that the CMS create an online portal for providers to search the patient’s ID number if he or she does not have the card or ID number present.

The CMS plans to mail out the new cards with MBIs in April 2018. There will be a transition period from April 2018 to December 31, 2019, during which time providers can use MBIs or HICNs for transactions. The CMS last updated its website in late September 2016, when they indicated that they are updating systems and will reach out to help prepare everyone for their new Medicare cards prior to the cards being mailed out.

To sum things up for you, what do you have to do? It is simple. First, make sure your address is up-to-date. Then, patiently await your new Medicare card to arrive during April of 2018, and make sure to bring it with you whenever necessary for billing. If you don’t want to wait for the replacement form in the mail, you can request a replacement Medicare card.

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