Identity theft has become a major problem in the United States. As a prevention measure, the Centers for Medicare& Medicaid Services (CMS) is readying a fraud prevention initiative that removes Social Security numbers from Medicare cards to help combat identity theft, and safeguard taxpayer dollars.
Personal identity theft affects a large and growing number of seniors. People age 65 or older are increasingly the victims of this type of crime. Incidents among seniors increased to 2.6 million from 2.1 million between 2012 and 2014, according to the most current statistics from the Department of Justice. Two-thirds of all identity theft victims reported a direct financial loss.
Providers are reminded to always protect their patient's information. Information such as social security numbers, driver's license numbers and credit card information, if breached, can lead to financial ruin for the patient and the doctor. If a breach occurs, the physician must notify CMS and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). This constitutes a HIPAA breach and will most likely result in fines and security measures such as Life-Lock® for their patients affected, for up to two years.
Medicare stated that new cards will no longer contain Social Security numbers, to combat fraud and illegal use. The new cards will use a unique, randomly-assigned number called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI), to replace the Social Security-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) currently used on the Medicare card. CMS will begin mailing new cards in April 2018 and will meet the congressional deadline for replacing all Medicare cards by April 2019. On May 31, 2017, CMS kicked-off a multi-faceted outreach campaign to help providers get ready for the new MBI.
Providers and beneficiaries will both be able to use secure look up tools that will support quick access to MBIs when they need them. There will also be a 21-month transition period where providers will be able to use either the MBI or the HICN further easing the transition
Work on this important initiative began many years ago, and was accelerated following passage of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). CMS will assign all Medicare beneficiaries a new, unique MBI number which will contain a combination of numbers and uppercase letters. Beneficiaries will be instructed to safely and securely destroy their current Medicare cards and keep the new MBI confidential. Issuance of the new MBI will not change the benefits a Medicare beneficiary receives.
For more information, please visit: https://www.cms.gov/medicare/ssnri/index.html
Dr. Mario Fucinari is a member of the Carrier Advisory Committee for Medicare. He is a frequent speaker available through NCMIC, Foot Levelers and several state associations. Dr. Fucinari is the author of several books, and training DVDs available at www.Askmario.com You may contact Dr. Fucinari at Doc@Askmario.com
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