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5 Ways Practices Can Prepare for New Medicare Cards

CMS has officially started mailing new Medicare cards to Medicare beneficiaries with the new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). During a 21-month transition period, healthcare providers will be able to use either the new MBI or old Social Security-based Health Insurance Claim Number for billing purposes. In this blog post, we'll cover how you can communicate the changes to your patients and ways to prepare your practice today.

What is the MBI?

The new cards assign each beneficiary a unique, randomly assigned number, known as the Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). This MBI replaces the current Social Security Number–based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN).

The new Medicare cards will assign each beneficiary a unique, randomly assigned number in order to prevent fraud, fight identity theft and protect essential program funding.

Testing and Transition Period

Your systems will need to be able to accept the new MBI format by April however, you can continue to bill and file healthcare claims using a patient's HICN during the transition period (April 2018 - December 2019).

New Medicare Card Mailing Schedule

The new Medicare cards will not be mailed out all at once. Medicare will start mailing the new cards in April 2018 in waves as detailed in the CMS New Medicare Card presentation.

Waves 1 and 2 of the card distribution will take place between April - June 2018 and include the states of Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Alaska, American Samoa, California, Guam, Hawaii, Northern Mariana Islands, and Oregon.

All other states fall into waves 3-7 and will be sent the new Medicare cards after June 2018.

Newly-eligible beneficiaries will get a card with a unique number regardless of where they live while existing beneficiaries will get a new card over the 12 month period from April 2018 to April 2019.

5 Ways to Prepare Your Practice 

To help providers prepare for the new cards and numbers, CMS has outlined five steps your practice should take:

1. CMS is holding Open Door Forums every quarter to get feedback and you can also access past Open Door Forums here.

2. CMS recommends verifying all Medicare patients' addresses and we couldn't agree more. CMS also states that if the address you have on file is different than the address you get in electronic eligibility transaction responses, ask your patients to correct their address in Medicare’s records by contacting the Social Security Administration. This may require coordination between your billing and office staff.  Give your patients a tear-off sheet in English or Spanish to remind them to check their addresses.

3. Teach patients about the new Medicare cards. Utilize the free resources available on the CMS website including handouts, social media graphics, videos, flyers, and more. Click here to access all of these documents and in a number of languages. Most modern-day EHR softwares have a patient portal or messaging system that can assist with your communication efforts as well.

4. Test system changes and work with your billing services provider or your in-house billing office to ensure your processes are ready for the new MBI format.

5. Help your patients avoid fraud. When communicating the new cards to your patients, you should also remind them to beware of fraud and scammers. The new cards present an opportunity for scammers to target patients and request that they update their information over the phone.

Make sure patients understand that Medicare already has the required information to update a beneficiaries card. Anyone that calls to confirm the current Medicare number before sending the new card or claims that there is a charge for the new card, is attempting fraud.

Communicating the New Cards to Patients

Keep in mind these ten points recommended by CMS when communicating the new Medicare cards to your patients:

  1. Your new card will automatically come to you. You don’t need to do anything as long as your address is up to date. If you need to update your address, visit your my Social Security account.
  2. Your new card will have a new Medicare Number that’s unique to you, instead of your Social Security Number. This will help to protect your identity. 
  3. Your Medicare coverage and benefits will stay the same.
  4. Mailing takes time. Your card may arrive at a different time than your friend’s or neighbor’s.
  5. Your new card is paper, which is easier for many providers to use and copy.
  6. Once you get your new Medicare card, destroy your old Medicare card and start using your new card right away.
  7. If you’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO), your Medicare Advantage Plan ID card is your main card for Medicare—you should still keep and use it whenever you need care. However, you also may be asked to show your new Medicare card, so you should carry this card too.
  8. Doctors, other health care providers and facilities know it’s coming and will ask for your new Medicare card when you need care, so carry it with you.
  9. Only give your new Medicare Number to doctors, pharmacists, other health care providers, your insurers, or people you trust to work with Medicare on your behalf.
  10. If you forget your new card, you, your doctor or other health care provider may be able to look up your Medicare Number online.

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