CMS Bolsters Fraud Protection for Medicare Beneficiaries

Medicare cards no longer contain Social Security numbers to protect against identity fraud.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced an initiative to combat fraud by removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards. This action is expected to prevent identity theft and save taxpayer money, according to a press release.

Instead of displaying a Social Security-based number, the new cards will feature a random number called the Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). The CMS reports that Medicare beneficiaries will begin receiving their new cards in April 2018.

This announcement is the first step of an outreach campaign to ensure providers are prepared for the new cards. Both providers and beneficiaries will be able to use tools that will provide swift access to MBIs when necessary, according to the release.

Additionally, providers will also be able to use a patient’s MBI or their Health Insurance Claim Number for 21 months to ensure the transition is smooth.

The CMS recently testified before the US House Committee on Ways & Means Subcommittee on Social Security and the US House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform Subcommittee on Information Technology to discuss the agency’s expansive plan to remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards and the transition to MBIs, according to the release.

Identity theft affects many Americans, with the Medicare population increasingly becoming victims of identity theft, according the release. Recent data from the Department of Justice indicates that identity theft among seniors grew from 2.1 million in 2012 to 2.6 million in 2014.

Identity theft can result in an emotional and financial toll on individuals. It can alter lives and ruin credit scores. It can also lead to inaccurate medical records and expensive false claims, according to the release.

The CMS began working on this initiative years ago, but gained momentum after the passage of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.

All beneficiaries will be assigned a unique MBI number, which contains both letters and numbers. These individuals will destroy their current cards and keep their MBI confidential to prevent identity theft, according to the release.

Importantly, the new cards will not affect the benefits that are received.

In correspondence with this initiative, the CMS launched a website dedicated to the Social Security Removal Initiative. The CMS is also planning regular calls to answer questions and provide information to healthcare professionals, according to the release.

“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.”