Social Security Number Removal Initiative

Social Security Numbers (SSN) have been used as the beneficiary identifier for administering the Medicare program since its inception. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) recently introduced the Social Security Number Removal Initiative (SSNRI) to remove the SSN from Medicare Cards. The primary goal of removing the SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) and replacing it with a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) is to decrease Medicare identity theft.

Optum has begun planning for this change, but what does this mean to you? There will be no file format changes to any input or response files used as part of the Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) data exchange process. Starting in July 2017, reference to the term HICN will be replaced by “MedicareID.” The Medicare ID will universally apply to all MSP processes and will be reflected in all documentation on the Coordination of Benefits & Recovery (COB&R) web site.

CMS has stated that the MBI will have the following characteristics:

  • The same number of characters as the current HICN (11), but it will be visibly distinguishable from the HICN
  • Contain uppercase alphabetic and numeric characters throughout the 11 digit identifier
  • Occupy the same field as the HICN on transactions
  • Be unique to each beneficiary (e.g. husband and wife will have their own MBI)
  • Be easy to read and limit the possibility of letters being interpreted as numbers (e.g. Alphabetic characters are upper case only and will exclude S, L, O, I, B and Z)
  • Not contain any embedded intelligence or special characters
  • Not contain inappropriate combinations of numbers or strings that may be offensive

CMS will complete its system and process updates to be ready to accept and return the MBI on April 1, 2018. Stakeholders may submit or exchange the MBI or HICN during the transition period which runs from April 1, 2018 through December 31, 2019.

After January 1, 2020, Section 111 MMSEA Responsible Reporting Entities (RREs) may provide any one of the following to Medicare’s Benefits Coordination & Recovery Center (BCRC) as the beneficiary identifier for MSP reporting purposes:

  • MBI
  • Full SSN
  • HICN or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) Medicare number

Additional information can be obtained from the CMS website at

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