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.”
(Photo: Will Vastine/TS)