Medicare program managers are getting ready to replace the Medicare cards of every enrollee with original Medicare coverage.

The giant card replacement effort will affect clients who use Medicare supplement insurance to fill in the gaps in their Medicare Part A hospitalization coverage and Medicare Part B outpatient and physician services coverage.

Medicare Advantage will also get new original Medicare cards, but they can continue to use their Medicare Advantage plan cards when seeking medical care.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) says it will begin mailing the new cards in April.

(Related: Meet the New Medicare Card)

The waves of mailings will continue until sometime this summer.

The first enrollees to get the new cards will be the enrollees in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia, according to a CMS mailing wave announcement.

The last enrollees to get the new cards will be the enrollees in Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Tennessee and the Virgin Islands.

CMS is replacing the cards because a provision in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) requires CMS to remove Social Security numbers from all Medicare cards by 2019, officials say.

In a guide aimed at doctors and other health care providers, CMS officials give detailed advice about how they want providers to talk about the new cards.

Officially, for example, CMS is calling the new card identifiers on the cards ”Medicare beneficiary identifiers,” or MBIs, even though the new identifiers include both numbers and letters.

When providers talk to patients about the identifiers, the providers should refer to the numbers as “Medicare numbers,” because testing shows that consumers know the term “number” can refer to alpha-numeric identifiers, officials say.

Officials also want providers to explain the reason for the change by telling patients, “The change will help protect your identity.”

Mailbox (Photo: Will Vastine/TS)

(Photo: Will Vastine/TS)

The testing shows that consumers want an explanation of why the card change is happening, officials say.

“Consumers perceive preventing identity theft to be the primary benefit and reason for the change,” officials say.

To keep identity thieves from using the new card mailings to steal people’s identities, CMS is encouraging enrollees to update their mailing addresses.

CMS is giving enrollees the following advice: “Beware of anyone who contacts you about your new Medicare card. We will never ask you to give us personal or private information to get your new Medicare number and card.”


Medigap Issuers

CMS notes that Medicare will give Medigap issuers information about enrollees’ new Medicare identifiers before it mails the new cards.

During a transition period, Medicare will accept claims that use either the old numbers or the new MBI identifiers, officials say.

After the transition period ends, Medigap issuers will have to start using the MBIs.

Insurers can use identification numbers other than the new MBIs for non-Medicare business, but, eventually, they will have to make sure they take Social Security numbers off of their own plan ID cards, officials say.

If private payers continue to have their own ID numbers, then they should put only their own numbers on enrollees’ cards, not the MBIs, officials say. 

Resources

CMS has posted many card-shift-related resources.

Some include:

Correction: An earlier version of this article described what Medicare Advantage plan enrollees will get incorrectly. Medicare Advantage plan enrollees will get new original Medicare cards.

— Read Identity Thieves Are Trying to Loot Annuities  on ThinkAdvisor.

 

— Connect with ThinkAdvisor Life/Health on Facebook and Twitter.