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CMS To Remove SSNs from Medicare Cards—Prepare with These 5 Steps


The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will be removing Social Security Numbers (SSNs) from all Medicare cards by April 2019. CMS says it is making the change in order to protect Medicare beneficiaries from medical identify theft.

CMS Sample Image of New Medicare Card

The nine-digit SSN will be replaced with a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). The MBI will be 11 characters in length and made up of numbers and uppercase letters. 

The transition period will begin no earlier than April 1, 2018, and run through Dec. 31, 2019. The MBI or the Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) will be accepted during the transition period. Once the transition period ends, you must use the MBI. 

Starting in June 2018, you can look up your patients’ new Medicare numbers through your Medicare Administrative Contractor's (MAC) secure web portal.

CMS Guidance on the New Medicare Cards

In Fall 2017, CMS mailed a letter to all Medicare fee-for-service providers about the new Medicare card initiative. Read a copy of the letter.

CMS is encouraging practices to consider whether they need to makes updates to their Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems in order to:

  • Accept the new Medicare number (Medicare Beneficiary Identifier or MBI). Use these MBI format specifications if you currently have edits on the current Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN).
  • Identify your patients who qualify for Medicare under the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). You will no longer be able to distinguish RRB patients by the number on the new Medicare card. You will be able to identify them by the RRB logo on their card, and we will return a message on the eligibility transaction response for a RRB patient. The message will say, "Railroad Retirement Medicare Beneficiary" in 271 Loop 2110C, Segment MSG. If you use the number only to identify your RRB patients beginning in April 2018, you must identify them differently to send Medicare claims to the RRB Specialty Medicare Administrative Contractor, Palmetto GBA.
  • Update your practice management system's patient numbers to automatically accept the new Medicare number or MBI from the remittance advice (835) transaction. Beginning in October 2018, through the transition period, CMS will return your patient's MBI on every electronic remittance advice for claims you submit with a valid and active HICN. It will be in the same place you currently get the "changed HICN":  835 Loop 2100, Segment NM1 (Corrected Patient/Insured Name), Field NM109 (Identification Code).

If you use vendors to bill Medicare, you can contact them to find out how they will pass the new Medicare number to you.

5 Steps You Can Take to Prepare for the Social Security Number Removal Initiative

CMS has also shared these five additional steps you can take today to prepare:

  1. Verify all of your Medicare patients' addresses. If the addresses you have on file are different than the Medicare address you get on electronic eligibility transactions, ask your patients to contact Social Security and update their Medicare records.
  2. Test your system changes and work with your billing office staff to be sure your office is ready to use the new MBI format.
  3. Check out CMS' New Medicare Card Providers Page for answers to FAQs and sign-up for the weekly MLN Connects® newsletter. 
  4. Access patient education information from CMS.
  5. Visit CMS' webpage at and download this CMS fact sheet on the transition to new Medicare cards.

Pennsylvania Medical Society members with questions can also contact our Knowledge Center at 855-PAMED4U (855-726-3348) or

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