The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said that it is on track to meet a deadline set by Congress to eliminate Social Security numbers on all Medicare cards by April 2019.
According to CMS, the change is a fraud prevention initiative that removes Social Security numbers from Medicare cards to help combat identity theft and safeguard taxpayer dollars. The new cards will use a unique, randomly-assigned number called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI), to replace the Social Security-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) currently used on the Medicare card.
“We’re taking this step to protect our seniors from fraudulent use of Social Security numbers which can lead to identity theft and illegal use of Medicare benefits,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “We want to be sure that Medicare beneficiaries and healthcare providers know about these changes well in advance and have the information they need to make a seamless transition.”
CMS will begin mailing the new cards in April 2018 and plans to have all cards replaced by April 2019.
Providers and beneficiaries will both be able to use secure look up tools that will support quick access to MBIs when they need them. There will also be a 21-month transition period where providers will be able to use either the MBI or the HICN further easing the transition.
The government has said that senior citizens are increasingly victims of identity fraud, citing statistics which showed that fraud incidents among seniors increased to 2.6 million from 2.1 million between 2012 and 2014.