Experience. Integrity. Advocacy.
Experience. Integrity. Advocacy.

What You Need to Know about the Social Security Number Removal Initiative


By April 2019, Social Security Numbers (SSN) will no longer appear on Medicare cards or be used as the Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) for Medicare transactions.

This little-known provision of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015 mandates instead that a randomly generated Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) will replace the SSN-based HICN on the new Medicare cards and for Medicare billing, eligibility status, and claim status.

By removing SSNs from the Medicare process, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services hopes to better protect private healthcare and financial information, along with federal health care benefit and service payments.

Such a big change is going to involve a lot of moving parts for a successful transition. According to CMS, new Medicare cards with the MBI will begin to be sent to all Medicare beneficiaries no earlier than April 2018. The new MBIs will be 11 characters in length and made up only of numbers and uppercase letters (no special characters).

CMS is urging providers to begin evaluating their practice management systems and business processes to determine what changes need to be made to use the new MBIs. Providers will not be notified separately about the newly assigned MBIs for each beneficiary but can ask to see new Medicare cards from patients around April 2018. As well, CMS will return a Medicare beneficiary’s MBI on the remittance advice when a provider submits a claim using a patient’s HICN. Also, indicated in the message field on eligibility transaction responses will be the date Medicare mailed a new card with an MBI.

There will be a transition period beginning April 1, 2019, or whenever the new cards begin to be distributed, through December 31, 2019, when either the HICN or the MBI can be used to exchange data with CMS. However, once new Medicare cards with the MBI begin to be distributed, people new to Medicare will be assigned only an MBI and not an HICN. For that reason, all systems must be ready to accept the MBI by April 2018.

For more information, visit CMS’s SSNRI webpage for regular updates and information by stakeholder.

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Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a freelance writer and editor who provides communications and marketing services for CIPROMS. She is responsible for creating, editing, and managing all content, design, and interaction on the company website and social media channels in order to promote CIPROMS as a thought leader in healthcare billing and management.

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