CMS poised to replace Social Security numbers on Medicare beneficiaries' ID cards

Physicians' groups said in a letter they fear seniors will lose or forget to bring the new Medicare cards to appointments, and there is no backup plan for doctors to gain access to the new identification number.

If you're on Medicare, you'll be getting a new Medicare card in the next year or two, with one big difference. "We want to be sure that Medicare beneficiaries know about these changes well in advance and have the information they need to make a seamless transition".

December 31, 2019, marks the end of that transition period, after which all physicians and other health care professionals must use MBIs for all billing and other Medicare transactions.

The new cards, which CMS will begin mailing in April 2018, will drop beneficiaries' current identification numbers - which are based on their Social Security numbers - and instead use "a unique, randomly-assigned number called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI)", the agency said in a press release.

In a written response (8 page PDF) to the final 2017 Medicare physician fee schedule dated December 22, 2016, the AAFP specifically asked CMS to, among other things, review current provider portals before making beneficiaries exclusively responsible for sharing newly issued MBIs with their physicians and other medical professionals.

Beneficiaries and their families should start seeing changes next April, Medicare announced Tuesday. New cards may be used right away. Second, Medicare will never ask for your Social Security number or bank information.

Beneficiaries can take steps to protect themselves until they get their new cards.

Personal identity theft affects a large and growing number of seniors.

"Most beneficiaries will carry that Medicare card in their wallet, so if their wallet is lost or stolen, that is exactly what the identity thief is looking for", said AARP's Amy Nofziger, a fraud prevention expert.

CMS said in its announcement that this kind of crime against people age 65 and older is becoming more common, despite increased efforts to combat it. Incidents against seniors rose from 2.1 million to 2.6 million between 2012 and 2014, according to the Department of Justice.

  • Zachary Reyes