Current Medicare Developments

Current Medicare Developments—How Future Medicare Cards Will Look; and New MSN Notices for “Qualified Medicare Beneficiaries.”

The look and layout of all Medicare cards will be changing, though not starting until next April.
The changes are intended to fight against fraud and identity theft. While beneficiaries’
numbers on their cards have long been based on 9-digit Social Security Numbers, the new cards, which will replace all existing ones, will have a random mix of 11 (eleven) numbers and letters. The Medicare agency (CMS) will begin issuing the new cards – which are officially called “MBI”s (for “Medicare Beneficiary Identifiers”) — next April. Eventually all beneficiaries will receive the new cards. On September 14, 2017, CMS issued a press release showing how the new cards will look, https//www.cms.gov/medicare/new-medicare-card/nmc-home.html.  A rendering is also included in the 2018 Medicare & You booklet being mailed to most beneficiaries (a copy is also available on CMS’ web site).

Many lower income Medicare beneficiaries qualify for one of three “Medicare Savings Programs.” These are state Medicaid eligibility programs, which cover their Medicare Part B premiums; and, in the case of one of them, “QMB, Part A premiums (if needed) and Part A and B coinsurance and co-pay charges. “QMB” stands for “Qualified Medicare Beneficiary.” Providers who serve Medicare patients are generally prohibited from charging beneficiaries for more than they get from Medicare (this is called ‘balance billing’), however many beneficiaries and providers are unaware of, or overlook this requirement. Effective October 2, 2017, the “Medicare Summary Notices” QMB beneficiaries receive will include a written notice of this requirement, and will highlight the beneficiaries’ zero liability. Although only beneficiaries who use Medicare on a fee-for-service basis receive MSN’s, the balance billing prohibition applies to Medicare health plans as well.

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