CMS to remove SSNs from all Medicare cards by April 2019

April 06, 2017
Area(s) of Interest: Patient Privacy Patient Care 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will remove social security numbers (SSNs) from all Medicare cards by April 2019, as required by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). As part of the Social Security Number Removal Initiative, a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) will replace the SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) for all Medicare transactions. The MBI is confidential like the SSN, and should be protected as personally identifiable information. 

By replacing the SSN-based HICN on all Medicare cards, private health care and financial information and federal health care benefit and service payments will be better protected.

Moving to new Medicare numbers and cards will require changes to provider systems and how they conduct business. Practices should assess the potential impact on their business operations, including whether their practice management software can accept and process transactions using the new MBI. Additionally, practices may find that additional time is required to educate patients on the purpose of the new Medicare cards and MBI, to advise that the new MBI will not change patients’ Medicare benefits.

Beginning in April 2018, CMS will start sending the new Medicare cards with the MBI to all Medicare beneficiaries. People with Medicare may start using their new Medicare cards and MBIs as soon as they receive them.

There will be a transition period, beginning no earlier than April 1, 2018, through December 31, 2019, where providers can use either the HICN or the MBI.

The MBI will be:

  • Clearly different than the HICN

  • 11 characters in length

  • Made up only of numbers and uppercase letters (no special characters)

For MBI specifications and to make changes to your systems, see the MBI format specifications.
More information regarding the Social Security Number Removal Initiative can be found on the CMS.gov website.


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