Medicare Beneficiary Identifier Removal of the Social Security Number

Judith Nelson headshot
Judith Nelson
Director, Medicare Advantage Strategy

The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015 prohibits the inclusion of Social Security Numbers on Medicare identification cards. This change is intended to protect the integrity of the Medicare program and is applicable to original Medicare as well as Medicare Advantage. On September 29, 2016, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released an HPMS memo regarding the removal of the Social Security Numbers (SSNs) from all Medicare cards by April 2019. A new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) will replace the SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) on the new Medicare cards for Medicare transactions, like billing, eligibility status, and claim status. CMS considers the new MBI confidential and it should be protected as personally identifiable information.

No earlier than April 2018, CMS will start sending the new Medicare cards with the MBI to all Medicare beneficiaries. CMS understands the complexity of these changes and plans to develop a communication plan with Medicare beneficiaries as well as maintain a transition period where you can use either the HICN or the MBI to exchange data with them. The transition period will begin no earlier than April 1, 2018 and run through December 31, 2019.

The format of the new MBI will be clearly different than the HICN and the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) number, 11 characters in length, and made up only of numbers and uppercase letters (no special characters). The HPMS memo states that "Systems-specific guidance for Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug plans will be communicated in the same way we usually send information about other topics, such as the Health Plan Management System (HPMS) and updates to the Plan Communications Users Guide. Guidance will be released in advance so that sponsors have adequate time to plan for system changes."

DST is evaluating our systems and business process to determine what changes will need to be made in order to use the new MBI. Additional information will be provided as we develop a strategic approach to handle these changes. A link to CMS's website is provided for information:

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