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Overview


New Medicare cards

We removed Social Security Numbers (SSNs) from all Medicare cards. A new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) replaced 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 and latest Open Door Forum slides. Also, you can see the new card.
In the past, we used an SSN-based HICN to identify people with Medicare and administer the program. Until 12/31/19, we'll keep using the HICN with our business partners:

Every person with Medicare has been assigned an MBI and we've mailed a new Medicare card to nearly every beneficiary.  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 took 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're better protecting:

  • 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 wanted the SSN taken off Medicare cards.

What was the timeline for the new Medicare cards?

We mailed the new Medicare cards with the MBI to all people with Medicare in phases by geographic location. The switch to MBIs hasn't changed 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.

Systems testing

We've finished testing the systems that use the MBI.

We tested systems that use the MBI, including enhanced integration testing (EIT) for new or high risk systems. We didn't offer end-to-end testing with Medicare fee-for-service claims processing systems because you can use either HICNs or MBIs to submit claims during the transition period.

We'll continue to use the transition period as a live test with MBIs and adjust as needed. Claims can still be submitted and processed with HICNs until the transition period ends. 

What does the MBI look like?

The MBIs are:

  • 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.  

Do 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 doesn't change Medicare benefits. People with Medicare may start using their new Medicare cards and MBIs right away. 

Starting on January 1, 2020 when the transition period ends, we'll no longer accept new cards with HICNs.

The MBI doesn't change Medicare benefits. 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.

Beneficiaries can use their new Medicare cards with an MBI to enroll in a Medicare health (Medicare Advantage) or drug plan. Those Medicare beneficiaries who 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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