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New Medicare cards

We're removing Social Security Numbers (SSNs) from all Medicare cards. A new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) will replace the SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) on the new Medicare cards for Medicare transactions like billing, eligibility status, and claim status. You can find more details in our frequently asked questions, 5/30/17 press release, and latest Open Door Forum slides. Also, you can see the new card.

We currently use an SSN-based HICN to identify people with Medicare and administer the program. We’ve used the HICN with our business partners:

Under the new system, for each person enrolled in Medicare (including those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan), we’ll:

  • Assign a new MBI.
  • Mail a new Medicare card.

The MBI is confidential like the SSN and should be protected as Personally Identifiable Information.

Why are the new Medicare cards important?

The biggest reason we're taking the SSN off of Medicare cards is to fight medical identity theft for people with Medicare.

By replacing the SSN-based HICN on all Medicare cards, we can better protect:

  • Private health care and financial information.
  • Federal health care benefit and service payments.

We've often heard from Congress, the General Accountability Office, people with Medicare, and advocacy groups that they want the SSN taken off Medicare cards.

What’s the timeline for the new Medicare cards & what does it mean for me?

Getting started

We're mailing the new Medicare cards with the MBI to all people with Medicare (including those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan) in phases by geographic location. The change to MBIs won’t change how we find non-active Medicare beneficiaries. The MBI and the HICN don’t tell us which beneficiaries are non-active, so we’ll keep using the data that does give us that information.

Learn, in English or Spanish, what you need to do now and see a timeline of what’s next.

Systems testing

Will there be testing for systems that use the MBI?

We’re testing systems that’ll use the MBI, including enhanced integration testing (EIT) for new or high risk systems. We’re not offering end-to-end testing with Medicare fee-for-service claims processing systems because you’ll be able to use either HICNs or MBIs to submit claims during the transition period.

You can use the transition period as a live test and make adjustments as necessary, yet still have claims submitted and processed with HICNs until the transition period ends. 

How will the MBI look?

The MBI will be:

  • Clearly different than the HICN and RRB number.
  • 11-characters in length.
  • Made up only of numbers and uppercase letters (no special characters); if you use lowercase letters, our system will convert them to uppercase letters.

The MBI doesn’t use the letters S, L, O, I, B, and Z to avoid confusion between some letters and numbers (e.g., between “0” and “O”).

Learn about and use our MBI format specifications to make changes to your systems.  

Will the MBI's characters have any meaning?

Each MBI is unique, randomly generated, and the characters are "non-intelligent," which means they don't have any hidden or special meaning.

What do the new Medicare cards mean for people with Medicare?

The MBI won’t change Medicare benefits. People with Medicare may start using their new Medicare cards and MBIs as soon as they get them.

The MBI won’t change Medicare benefits. People with Medicare may start using their new Medicare cards and MBIs as soon as they get them. When people with Medicare get their new Medicare cards, they should destroy their old red, white, and blue Original Medicare cards, but they should KEEP their:

  • Social Security cards.
  • Medicare Advantage plan cards.
  • Medicare drug plan cards.  

Anyone with Medicare who belongs to a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare drug plan (Part D) should keep using their Medicare Advantage and/or Medicare drug plan cards like they always have when they get health care services or fill a prescription.

The effective date of the new cards, like the old cards, is the date each beneficiary was or is eligible for Medicare.

Once beneficiaries get their new Medicare cards with an MBI, they can use their new cards to enroll in a Medicare health (Medicare Advantage) or drug plan. Those Medicare beneficiaries who do choose to enroll in Medicare health and/or drug plans will still also get an insurance card from their health and/or drug plans. As always, while beneficiaries are enrolled in health and/or drug plans, they should use the cards from those plans when they get health care and/or prescriptions.

You can also check our new Medicare card Outreach & education page to get information for you and resources you can use when you talk to people with Medicare about the new Medicare cards.

Where can I get more information about the new Medicare cards?

Get our Open Door Forum materials, see our Outreach & education page, read our frequently asked questions, and check this webpage often for updates.

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