Medicare and Medicaid recipients will breathe a sigh of relief as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) announced that they are in the process of removing social security numbers from insurance cards. This move will offer greater protection to 57.7 million Americans.
The new cards will use a unique, randomly-assigned 11-digit number, referred to a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). The MBI will replace the older Social Security-based insurance number, currently used on insurance cards.
“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 new cards in April 2018 and is on target to meet the congressional deadline for replacing all insurance cards with new MBI numbers by April 2019. To help ease the transition, there will also be a 21 month transition period, whereby providers will still be able to use either the new MBI number or the recipient’s Social Security number.
ID theft and illegal insurance fraud has been a major factor for this long overdue change. People age 65 or older have been the main victims of this type of crime. Recent statistics from the Department of Justice show that 2.6 million seniors have been victimized.
Medical ID theft can have severe personal and financial consequences! Inaccuracies in medical records can lead to misdiagnosis and even death. The victims of this crime are still responsible for any co-pays. It also cost taxpayers millions of dollars annually in false insurance claims.
CMS will begin rolling out a multi-faceted outreach campaign to help providers get ready for the new MBI. They have created a website with information about the “Social Security Removal Initiative” (SSNRI). You can find it here: https://www.cms.gov/medicare/ssnri/index.html
Linda Vitale is on a mission to empower and educate the public about Fraud, Scams and ID Theft.