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Prepare for New Medicare Cards

Prepare for New Medicare Cards

Starting April 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will issue new Medicare cards to people with Medicare removing Social Security Numbers (SSNs) to help fight identify theft and protect essential program funding and the private healthcare and financial information of Medicare Beneficiaries.  The New Medicare Card will have a unique, randomly-assigned number called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) and will replace the existing Social Security-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN). This new MBI will replace the existing Medicare card numbers on cards and in various CMS systems now in use. The goal of CMS is to start mailing the new cards to people with Medicare benefits in April 2018.  By April 2019 all Medicare cards will be replaced.
So what do you need to do to start preparing your practice for the New Medicare Card?
There is no time like the present to start looking your practice management system (PMS), business protocols and processes to help stay ahead of the MBI change and allow for a smoother transition. What system changes are needed in order to begin to use the new MBI and how long will they take to implement?  Contact your clearinghouse, electronic health record (EHR) system vendor or billing company to find out about their implementation of the MBI system changes. Also, if you have in-house billing staff, remember to communicate with them the changes coming to ensure a clear process is in place for the New Medicare Cards.  By having a clear understanding of the changes and delineating a process to manage the transition, timely payments can be received and minimize potential cash flow disruptions.
How will providers get patients’ MBI?
While your systems will need to be able to accept the new MBI format by April 2018, there will be a 21-month transition period starting October 2018 through April 2019.  During this transition period, you can continue to bill and file healthcare claims using a patient’s HICN.  When a claim is submitted using a patient’s valid and active HICN the local carrier (Novitas Solutions) will return (On the 835 remittance) both the HICN and the MBI on every remittance advice.  This provides a valid resource for you to update your PMS with the new number.  Additionally, CMS is developing capabilities where doctors and other healthcare providers will be able to look up the new MBI through a secure tool at the point of service.
How to Communicate the Change to New Medicare Cards to Patients
Beginning in April 2018, some Medicare patients will come to your office with new cards in hand. Being proactive and communicating the change to your patients will help patients adjust without confusion or frustration.  If you have an EHR, think about utilizing your patient portal or practice messaging to communicate with your patients, their family or caregivers about the changes coming and what your practice will be doing to help with the transition. Look at posting notices about the changes in your office and reminding patients to bring in their New Medicare Cards when they receive them to their appointments. (Can you make the word “notices” a link to the CMS website that I included below?)
This is a multi-effort approach. It will take multiple messages over time and through various sources to inform, prepare and then remind and prepare patients of the change. CMS is committed to giving you the information needed to help ensure you are ready for the New Medicare Cards and MBIs.
CMS Recommended Steps to Assist with the Transition
Here are a few steps CMS recommends practices take today to prepare for new Medicare cards:
  1. Go to the CMS provider website and sign-up for the weekly MLN Connects® newsletter. 
  2. Attend the CMS quarterly calls to get more information. The MLN Connects newsletter will notify you of when calls are scheduled.
  3. Verify all your Medicare patients’ addresses. If the addresses you have on file are different than the Medicare address you get on electronic eligibility transactions, ask your patients to contact Social Security and update their Medicare records.
  4. Work with CMS to help your Medicare patients adjust to their new Medicare card. CMS has designed posters, flyers and tear-off sheets for your use.  You can display helpful information about the new Medicare cards in your practice. Distribute fliers and hang posters about the change in your offices to help spread the word. These are available for download or ordering on the CMS website
  5. Test your system changes and work with your billing office staff to be sure your office is ready to use the new MBI format.
  6. Questions, concerns or problems experienced with the transition to the New Medicare Card should be referred to the Provider Ombudsman who will act as a resource to providers.  Dr. Eugene Freund has been named to this position. To reach the Ombudsman, contact: NMCProviderQuestions@cms.hhs.gov