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CMA urges CMS to address significant concerns with planned changes to patient ID cards



May 23, 2017
Area(s) of Interest: MACRA Practice Management Payor Issues and Reimbursement 

The California Medical Association (CMA) and more than 90 provider organizations have raised concerns about plans to issue new Medicare beneficiary identification cards without any formal rulemaking or opportunity for public comment.


The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) requires CMS to remove Social Security Numbers from Medicare cards to prevent identity theft. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has said it will in 2018 begin issuing new Medicare cards that replace the current identification number—which is the beneficiary's Social Security Number—with an all new Medicare Beneficiary Identification (MBI) number.


CMS plans to begin distributing more than 150 million cards with MBIs starting in April 2018. By 2020, Medicare claims submitted without the MBI will be rejected.


CMA believes that the initiative has the potential to significantly disrupt patient care and physician payment, and is urging CMS to take more time to get valuable feedback from physicians before making a change that could have such far reaching unintended negative consequences. The conversion to the MBI will require significant workflow and system changes for providers, practice management system vendors and secondary payors.


Among CMA's major concerns are the fact that there will be no MBI look-up option and MBIs will not be returned on eligibility verification responses. CMA is urging CMS to develop a mechanism for providers to quickly and securely access Medicare beneficiary identification numbers to avoid disruptions in access to care.


CMA is also concerned that there may be significant patient confusion about new ID cards, given the minimal educational outreach planned.


“We believe that this short window for educational outreach will be insufficient to prepare the large and vulnerable Medicare population for this major transition, and we urge CMS to initiate an extensive communications campaign to beneficiaries at a much earlier date,” CMA said in a letter cosigned by nearly 100 provider organizations.

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