Taking Social Security numbers off Medicare IDs could spell disaster, providers say

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' plan to remove Medicare beneficiaries' Social Security numbers off of their ID cards could lead to disruptions in care, providers told the agency last week.

The American Medical Association, along with dozens of provider and medical specialists groups, warned CMS administrator Seema Verma in a letter that the planned removal of Social Security numbers from the cards could disrupt care, as well as physician payment.

The groups asked the agency to pursue the change — which would affect 60 million Medicare beneficiaries — through the “traditional” rulemaking and public comment process. New cards are scheduled to be released to beneficiaries by April 2019 with a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier in place of the SSN.

“While we understand the importance of protecting Medicare beneficiaries from identify theft by replacing SSNs with new MBIs on Medicare identification cards, we have concerns about patient and physician awareness of this change and back-up plans to mitigate potential problems,” the letter reads.

That lack of a back-up plan worries providers, who noted no system in place for patients who arrived for treatment without a new Medicare ID card. Relying on elderly beneficiaries to have cards on hand “will result in delayed treatment and claim payment,” the groups said.

“In an age of increased identity theft and fraud, the Medicare patient population deserves the improved security that will be achieved with the [Social Security Number Removal Initiative],” the letter reads. “This protection should not, however, come at the expense of prompt patient care or provider payment.”