Medicare to Phase Out Use of Social Security Numbers for Identification

Two years ago Medicare enacted a law, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), to cease using social security numbers (SSN) for identification purposes in a bid to discourage identity theft. By 2018, patients with Medicare will receive new cards with ID numbers. By April 2019 all SSNs will be removed from all Medicare cards.

Identity theft is a real concern in the digital age and by moving to a new system, Medicare is hoping to better protect federal health care benefits, service payments, and private health care and financial information.

Planning is also underway for a massive educational campaign to ensure Medicare recipients know they need to bring their new Medicare beneficiary identifier (MBI) cards with them to all medical appointments and how to get a replacement card if they lose the first original. The new cards do not change Medicare benefits in any way.

Medicare’s new plan is also referred to as the Social Security Number Removal Initiative (SSNRI). Under the new system when it is completely rolled out, for every American enrolled in Medicare they will:

  • Be assigned a new MBI card
  • Be sent a new MBI card

The new numbers are to have a distinct look and can not be confused with SSN because they are 11-characters in length, are comprised of only numbers and uppercase letters, and do not have any special characters.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is to start mailing out the new cards, with the MBIs, in April 2018. A transition period allowing health service providers to use recipients’ SSNs or the new MBI cards for billing purposes and claims will last until 2019. By April 2019 SSNs will not be accepted. Although the procedure for mailing out the MBI cards is still being developed, those seeking information on the transition to a new system may visit the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website for updates.

The new cards are to be used when the CMS deals with their partners:

  • Health care professional providers
  • Various health plans
  • The Social Security Administration (SSA)
  • State Medicaid Agencies
  • The U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB)

As soon as your new card arrives, you may use it.