MEDICARE CHANGES COMING IN 2018 – Time to Get Ready!

October 5, 2017

In an effort to prevent identity theft and fraud, Medicare will be issuing new identification cards to eligible beneficiaries beginning in April 2018. The existing cards, which include the patient social security number, will be replaced with a randomly selected eleven-digit member identification consisting of numbers and upper-case letters. Medicare projects that all member cards will be replaced by April 2019.

The card acronym will be MBI (Medicare Beneficiary Identifier) to replace the currently used HICN (Health Insurance Claim Number). There will be a 21-month transition period where practices can use either the MBI or HICN for billing and other patient-related purposes.

It is extremely important that you check with your billing/practice management software vendor to ensure that your system can handle the change in the format. If the software has defined fields where Medicare ID numbers are entered, a system update may be required in order to accommodate the format of the new card. Please note that Medicare will not be offering end-to-end testing for submitting providers.

Medicare has taken a proactive approach with their upcoming changes. Currently, in the Spotlight section of their website  (, you will find a link that directs users to information about the transition to the new cards.  They have provided widgets, sample patient letters, and other resources for Providers to help prepare their offices and their patients for the upcoming changes. Take the time to review the information on their website, as CMS has clearly outlined the transition period and has provided detailed instructions on how they will be rolling out the new program.

Some Medicare patients may be confused by the letter and new card they receive, making it imperative for offices to be prepared to provide information and assistance. The below link will lead you to a wealth of information including a PowerPoint presentation to train staff, and information for patients.

Practices may consider updating their automated appointment reminder systems to include a message regarding the new Medicare cards and place the flyers provided by Medicare in their waiting and exam rooms.  Electronic eligibility requests utilizing a 270 file will have a response message that will say “CMS mailed a Medicare card with a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) to this beneficiary.  Medicare providers, please get the new MBI from your patient and save it in your system(s)”. This information can then be communicated to your patients prior to arrival for their appointment as a reminder bring their new card.

Consider utilizing the resources Medicare has provided and begin the training several months prior to the receival of new cards in April 2018.  Proper staff and patient training is the key to a smooth transition.

By Susan Genrich, CMM, CPC
Consultant, RR Health Strategies