Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,CMS,Health Insurance Claim Numbers,HICN,MACRA,MBI,Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015,Medicare Beneficiary Identification
In the next 18 months, 150 million Medicare beneficiaries (active, archived, or deceased) will be transitioned to new ID numbers, called Medicare Beneficiary Identification (MBI) codes. The goal – to protect a vulnerable population from identity fraud – is admirable and urgent.
But the sheer magnitude of the process, combined with significant uncertainties about its rollout, should be of great concern to health IT leaders at hospitals and healthcare systems. Hiccups in the transition could potentially disrupt continuity of care and delay payments to providers. Health IT leaders would be well-served to develop a strategy now to minimize negative impacts down the road.
Why the change is needed
Up until now, Medicare beneficiaries have been using 11-character codes called Health Insurance Claim Numbers (HICN). The problem is that they all begin with the member’s social security number, with two characters added to the end. These ID numbers are easy to crack and – since Social Security numbers provide access to all sorts of private information – leave beneficiaries open to identity theft, both medical and financial. A Medicare card that is lost, copied, or even left in view in a public area or in the home could jeopardize a member’s personal health information or life savings.
So as part of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will be replacing the old Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) on Medicare cards with new, randomly generated Medicare Beneficiary Identification (MBI) codes. Officially, the change is known as the Social Security Number Removal Initiative. The new MBI codes will use a randomly generated combination of letters and numbers, similar to the recommended best practices for passwords.