Medicare ID Numbers Are Changing: 5 Things to Know

The long awaited change to Medicare ID numbers is here so now is a good time to take a moment to make sure you are prepared. New ID cards will start shipping and be distributed to Medicare beneficiaries in April 2018 and, fortunately, you have time to prepare. This doesn't mean you should wait until the very last few weeks before the old ID numbers are no longer active to have a plan in place; no, no. Create a plan now so that way when your patients came to you with their new ID cards you will be able to confidently tell them how seamless the transition will be. Why? Because you have a plan, and because you read this blog. 

Many people for a long time said it was so unlikely that Medicare would change ID numbers from the SSN that it would take an act of Congress for it to happen. Well, that every one-thousand-year event happened in 2015 with the passage of MACRA. Now MACRA affected many specific features of Medicare, including payment growth rates and payments to doctors, but this change is the most impactful. This will touch every single person who has Medicare, some 44 million people, so every provider should be prepared. 

Below are 5 things to know heading into the transition:

1) Existing Medicare ID numbers are valid until December 31, 2019 - While the new Medicare ID cards will start being shipped in April 2018, the old ID numbers will be valid until December 31, 2019. That means there is a full 21 months to make sure every healthcare practice is ready to accept this change without any bumps to Medicare payments. This also means that Medicare Administrative Contractors (MAC) will continue to process and pay claims using the old ID numbers through the end of the transition period. This is good news for providers and will provide ample time to create a plan for transitioning to the new ID numbers.

2) The new Medicare number will be referred to as the "Medicare Beneficiary Identifier", or MBI - In all documentation you receive from CMS regarding this change, this will officially be how the new Medicare ID number is referred to. Additionally, it will most likely appear in any letters or correspondence sent to beneficiaries. Starting in June 2018, providers will have the opportunity to look up a patient's MBI on each MAC's website. This will be accessed through SPOT, so if you don't have access to SPOT now would be a good time to get registered. 

3) Start having the conversation with your patients now - This is important because beneficiaries will want to make sure their address is updated with CMS. If not, the new card could go to the wrong place. Also, this will be a good opportunity for the patient to make sure CMS has their most current supplemental insurance on-file for crossover purposes. 

4) Have a conversation with your billing provider or clearinghouse about the transition - It's important that whoever does your billing has a process in place to make a seamless transition to the new ID numbers. If you are using a billing company, how will they ensure there are no disruptions in your Medicare payments? At GreenpointMed, we have our process ready to go.   

5) Railroad Medicare Beneficiaries will have an MBI identical to everyone else - No longer will there be 1-3 letters in front of a RRB Medicare beneficiary's ID number. The MBI will be the same as all other Medicare beneficiary's, except the card will have a (hopefully well designed) RRB logo on it. 

This will be an easy transition and I promise we will get through it. The most important thing though: Be prepared!

JG