CMS: Providers need to apply for a national identifier in 2005

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A final rule in Friday's Federal Register says healthcare providers will be required to use a unique national provider identifier (NPI) for filing and processing all healthcare claims by May 23, 2007. Small health plans have until May 23, 2008, to comply. Congress mandated the identifier in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act's administrative simplification provision.

Providers may begin to apply for their NPIs by May 23, 2005. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said providers do not need to apply for NPIs at this time, but will receive information about the application process closer to the effective date.

Providers will be assigned one NPI for all healthcare transactions, whether federal, state-administered or private. The new identifier will replace the current system whereby providers use several identifiers, depending on the data's destination.

To read the rule, go to www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/a040123c.html under "Separate Parts in This Issue, Part II."