By Jill Lowe, Healthcare Account Manager
If you’re a Baby Boomer, you probably remember carrying your Social Security Card around with you in your wallet. Back in those bygone days, your Social Security Number (SSN) was likely on your Health Insurance Card in your wallet as well. At some point, Social Security Numbers became our de facto national ID.
However, with the rise in medical identity theft and personal identity theft, which affects a large and growing number of seniors, using Social Security Numbers as ID has become a BIG No-No. Insurance companies have since abandoned the use of SSNs as patient identifiers, but unfortunately, as we all know, CMS still uses SSNs as Medicare Health Insurance Claim Numbers (HICN) and prints them on the Medicare Cards that many folks carry in their wallets.
Curbing Identity Theft
The Social Security Number Removal Initiative (SSNRI) was created, as mandated by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) to help curb identity theft. New cards will be printed with Medicare Beneficiary Identifiers (MBI). CMS states these will be unique, randomly assigned numbers. MBIs will be 11 characters long and contain only numbers and uppercase letters. To facilitate a smooth transition, CMS plans to have secure look-up tools for both Providers and Beneficiaries and will be providing a 21-month period where providers can use either the HICNs or MBIs.
CMS plans to start replacing Medicare Cards in April of 2018, with all Medicare Cards to be replaced by April 2019. (That actually seems like a small window to replace over 57 million cards!) Extensive outreach and training will be provided before and during the transition.
Caution, Security Ahead
As with any big change, there can be potential pitfalls. One is the worry that this transition process may cause confusion for some seniors. The other more concerning risk is that it opens an opportunity for unscrupulous souls making unsolicited calls to seniors, stating they are calling regarding the new Medicare Cards in an effort to gather SSNs.
We are all hopeful that CMS will do a good job getting the word out about the new cards with little or no issue. Fingers crossed!
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