Social Security Number Removal Initiative (SSNRI) for Medicare Cards

Written by Jessica Adkins

June 6, 2017

Government officials advised they were on track to meet a 2019 deadline for replacing Social Security numbers (The Social Security Number Removal Initiative, or SSNRI) on Medicare cards with randomly generated numbers and letters to help protect beneficiaries against identity theft.

Beneficiaries and their families should start seeing changes next April, CMS announced Tuesday. That’s when new cards will be mailed out to more than 47 million eligible beneficiaries. They will also be instructed to destroy their old cards after the new card has been received. New cards may be used right away.

In the statement Tuesday, Seema Verma said the Trump Administration is aiming for a seamless transition over a 21-month period that will involve coordination with beneficiaries, family members, hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, pharmacies, and state governments. Congress has set an April 2019 deadline for all beneficiaries to have new cards and Medicare has set up a website that provides basic information.

The new Medicare number will be known as MBI, which stands for Medicare Beneficiary Identifier.

No final prototype of the new card has been unveiled, but the MBI will have 11 characters, a combination of randomly generated numbers and upper-case letters. That will easily distinguish the MBI from the familiar Medicare number, which is based on Social Security numbers. You can get a better understanding of the MBI format by clicking here.

“Most beneficiaries will carry that Medicare card in their wallet, so if their wallet is lost or stolen, that is exactly what the identity thief is looking for,” said AARP’s Amy Nofziger, a fraud prevention expert. Private insurers have stopped using Social Security numbers on ID cards, she added, and it’s imperative that Medicare is gearing up to make the change.

Beneficiaries are increasingly the victims of identity theft, the government says, with a nearly 24% increase in such cases from 2012-2014, when 2.6 million incidents were recorded.

Nofziger warned that confusion around the transition to new Medicare cards could become an opportunity for fraudsters. Beneficiaries may get unsolicited phone calls from official-sounding people asking for personal details so new cards can be sent.

It’s important to advise your clients to ignore those calls, do not provide any information, and to report such calls immediately. For further updates and more information on the SSNRI, click here to visit CMS.gov’s official website.

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