How Your Home Care Organization Can Prepare for the Switch to Medicare Beneficiary Numbers

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Rhonda Perrin Oakes, RN, CHPN 
Regulatory Analyst, Change Healthcare
How Your Home Care Organization Can Prepare for the Switch to Medicare Beneficiary Numbers

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has released a primer on how your organization can stay up to date on the transition to the new Medicare Beneficiary Number (MBI).

The MBI will replace the Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN), which is based on the recipient’s Social Security number. As you’re probably aware, healthcare records are more valuable than credit card numbers on the black market. However, the value of medical records is linked to the wealth of information in each file that can be used to commit fraud. According to an article from CSO Online, the price per record has come down, largely because of large-scale data breaches that have flooded the market and a switch to ransomware attacks.

A transition period is scheduled to start no earlier than April 1, 2018, and continue through December 31, 2019, when either an HICN or MBI will be an acceptable metric for data interchange. CMS plans to actively monitor the changeover to ensure that Medicare benefits continue without interruption.

Updates to McKesson Homecare™ and McKesson Hospice™ will help home care providers make the transition to the Medicare Beneficiary Number. Despite the transition period, CMS systems should be able to accept the MBI format by the start of the period, according to CMS. (Editor’s note: McKesson Technology Solutions is now Change Healthcare.)

What your organization can do

The stated goal of this initiative is to “prevent fraud, fight identity theft and protect essential program funding and the private healthcare and financial information of our Medicare beneficiaries.”

CMS suggests the following five steps to help ensure your home care organization is ready for the changeover:

  1. Sign-up for the weekly MLN Connects® newsletter. You’ll discover more about the program and receive updates on news, program changes, etc.
  2. CMS plans quarterly calls for organizations to receive more information. A schedule of calls will be published in the MLN Connects newsletter.
  3. As your organization accepts new patients or starts a new care plan for existing home health patients, verify your Medicare patients’ addresses. For each address you’re given that differs from the Medicare address you get on electronic eligibility transactions, ask that patient to contact Social Security and update the Medicare records. New Medicare cards with MBI will be mailed as soon as April 2018 and continuing through April 2019.
  4. CMS asks for cooperation in helping Medicare patients get accustomed to their new Medicare cards. More specific information is scheduled for release this fall. CMS asks that you hang posters in your offices announcing the change to get clinicians and aides familiar with the changes and hopefully start conversations with patients.
  5. Test your system to help ensure your billing software can accommodate the new MBI format.

The changeover to the Medicare Beneficiary Number represents a fundamental shift in how Medicare patients are identified. There are millions of Social Security numbers in use, so the enormity of the task should not be understated.

We at Change Healthcare are working to make the transition as seamless as possible for our home care organizations. Your role is to help patients understand the reasons behind the change and support them however possible.

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