CMS to Issue new Medicare Beneficiary Identifiers Next Year


Beginning in April 2018, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 requires CMS to remove Social Security numbers from all Medicare cards. In the next year, CMS will generate new identifiers for all Medicare patients, including those who are deceased. CMS is required to do so to address the risk of beneficiary medical identity theft.


CMS will have to generate 150 million Medicare Beneficiary Identifiers (MBIs) for 60 million active beneficiaries and 90 million deceased or archived beneficiaries.

The new identifiers will have the same number of characters – 11, but will now contain uppercase alphabetic characters in addition to the numbers. The key positions of 2, 5, 8 and 9 will always be alphabetic. For example: A former Health Insurance Claim Identifier (Social Security number plus Beneficiary Identifier Code) could be 123-45-6789-A1 while the new MBI could look like 1EG4-TE5-MK73.

The new system allows for the same number of fields for either letter or number, but practices will have to check with their Practice Management system vendors to make sure the fields will accept both alpha and numerical characters.

New cards will be mailed to all active accounts beginning in April 2018. CMS expects the transition period to run from April 2018 through December 31, 2019. During the transition period, practices will be able to use either the former Health Insurance Claim Identifier or the new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier. After October 2018, it is expected that when a practice submits a claim using the old identifier, remittance advice will be returned using the new MBI.

What does this mean to the practice? 

• Before the new initiative begins, practices should contact that practice management vendor to see if their fields are compatible for the new identifiers.
• Practices need to train staff to understand that patients will be mailed their new cards beginning in l 2018 and put a system in place to get those new identifiers into systems at the patients’ next appointment.Stay current, sign-up for the weekly CMS MLN Connects® newsletter here.
• Verify all of Medicare patients’ addresses. If the addresses on file are different than the Medicare address recieved on electronic eligibility transactions, ask your patients to contact Social Security and update their Medicare records.
• Create ways to help your Medicare patients adjust to their new Medicare card
• When available, later this fall, the practice can display helpful information about the new Medicare cards (for example, hang posters about the change in your offices to educate your Medicare patients).