Category Archives: News Bulletins

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

CMS Releases NGHP Section 111 User Guide v5.2

CMS has released an updated NGHP User Guide, version number 5.2. The update clarifies MIR Section 111 reporting thresholds initially addressed in a published alert by CMS Financial Services Group posted to the Non-Group Health Plan Recovery site on November 15, 2016 entitled “2017 Recovery Thresholds for Certain Liability Insurance, No-Fault Insurance, and Workers’ Compensation Settlements, Judgments, Awards or Other Payments”. The changes to thresholds are summarized below.

For Section 111 reporting, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has changed the minimum reportable Total Payment Obligation to the Claimant (TPOC) amounts for liability insurance (including self-insurance), no-fault insurance, and workers’ compensation claims.

  • Liability is changing from $1000 to $750 for TPOC Dates of 1/1/2017 and subsequent.
  • No-Fault is changing from $0 to $750 for TPOC Dates of 10/1/2016 and subsequent.
  • Workers’ Compensation (WC) is changing from $300 to $750 for TPOC Dates of 10/1/2016 and subsequent.

TPOC amounts exceeding these thresholds must be reported. However, TPOC amounts less than the specified threshold may be reported and will be accepted.

The logic for the CJ07 error has been changed such that a TPOC of any amount will be accepted for all types of TPOCs, including liability TPOCs. The CJ07 error will continue to be returned for a liability, workers’ compensation, or no-fault claim report where the ORM Indicator is set to “N” and the cumulative TPOC amount is zero.

We are able to provide a consolidated PDF file of all the updated chapters upon request. Please contact us at if you would like to receive this consolidated, searchable file. For more information, please email

Will CMS raise the bar for Zero MSA Allocations?

For many years, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would approve a zero MSA allocation if the submission met the following criteria, along with supporting documentation, was provided as proof thereof:

  1. The claim had been denied
  2. There had not been any
    1. indemnity payments
    2. paid medical expenses
    3. prior indemnity settlement

CMS announced today (11/1/2016), that effective immediately, the Workers’ Compensation Review Contractor (WCRC) will utilize procedures that were previously in effect in reviewing zero MSAs. Additionally, despite not specifically announcing plans to do so, there are indications that CMS may be re-evaluating an internal rule associated with denied and zero MSA allocations that is being misinterpreted. If pursued, the revisions stand to raise the bar for approval even higher. If implemented, CMS plans to use the following three-pronged test in order for a Medicare Set-Aside (MSA) to qualify for a zero allocation:

  1. The claim itself or the injury alleged had been initially denied in its entirety
  2. There has been no medical or indemnity payments for the claim or alleged injury, and no acceptance of ongoing responsibility for medicals (ORM) reported
  3. There has been either a final judicial determination after an evidentiary hearing on the merits eliminating the employer of responsibility, OR there exists medical records or documentation from the Medicare beneficiary’s treating physician indicating that no future treatment is anticipated.

Said another way, CMS may only approve a zero allocation if it can be determined that no compensable workers’ compensation claim exists, or no future medical expenses are anticipated, and no payments to the contrary have been made. You may ask, if I have one of the items listed above in number three, would I really need to have an MSA allocation at all?

There is no indication that zero MSA allocation changes will be a topic of discussion at the recently announced CMS Town Hall Teleconference scheduled from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. EST on Nov. 17, 2016. The subject of the teleconference was listed as pertaining to: Ongoing Responsibility for Medicals (ORM) recovery, Final Conditional Payment (CP) process reminders, and Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Portal (MSPRP) improvements. However, inquiry about zero MSA allocations may occur. To participate, you may call (800) 603-1774 and enter the pass-code: 987659 between 5-10 minutes before the event begins. For now, you may proceed as usual as CMS states it will publish any pending changes when or before they go into effect. Additionally, denied or zero MSAs are still being reviewed without a court order. However, if you have a zero MSA in the future, you may wish to:

  1. Submit treatment records from the treating physician demonstrating no further treatment for the claimed injuries/illnesses will be required
  2. Obtain, and provide CMS, a judiciary ruling after a hearing on the merits regarding the compensability of the claim
  3. Review and if applicable, proceed to finalize as a strict compromise settlement as defined by CMS guidelines rather than submit.

If you have questions, please contact Lavonya Chapman, Esq., RN, CMSP; Optum, Medicare Secondary Payer Compliance Counsel, Settlement Solutions, 813-612-5525,

*Note: CMS approval of zero MSAs is intended for commutation claims. You may wish to refer to the WMCSA Reference Guide to determine whether your claim is considered a “compromise” versus “commutation” type settlement. See § 4.1.1 of the Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Arrangement (WCMSA) Reference Guide, version 2.5, revised 4/4/2016.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announces annual recovery thresholds for certain liability insurance, no-fault insurance and workers’ compensation payments

To fulfill the requirements of Section 202 of the Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers (SMART) Act of 2012, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is required annually to review all of the costs related to collecting data and determining the amount of Medicare’s recovery claim, otherwise known as conditional payments. As of September 26, 2016, and for the remainder of 2016, CMS has announced its recovery and reporting thresholds.

CMS determined that it will maintain the current single threshold for physical trauma-based liability insurance settlements, where settlements of $1000 or less do not need to be reported and Medicare’s conditional payment amount related to these cases does not need to be repaid.

CMS also evaluated available data related to no-fault insurance and workers’ compensation settlements. Based on this data, CMS determined that it will establish a new threshold for no-fault insurance and workers’ compensation settlements. For FY 2016, settlements of $750 or less for no-fault insurance and workers’ compensation do not need to be reported and Medicare’s conditional payment amount related to these cases do not need to be repaid if the no-fault insurer or workers’ compensation entity does not otherwise have ongoing responsibly for medicals (ORM) that has been accepted and/or reported via Section 111 mandatory insurer reporting (MIR).


The Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) provisions of the Social Security Act prohibit Medicare from making payment where payment has been made or can reasonably be expected to be made by a primary plan. If payment has not been made, or cannot reasonably be expected to be made promptly by a primary plan, Medicare may pay conditionally, with the expectation that the conditional payments would be reimbursed, once primary payment responsibility is demonstrated.

The primary plan, such as liability insurance, no-fault insurance or workers’ compensation, often demonstrates primary payment responsibility through a settlement, judgment, award or other payment (hereinafter, “settlement”). Accordingly, Medicare is obligated by statute to recover conditional payments it made for medical care related to the settlement. Medicare’s recovery is limited to the amount of the settlement less any attorney fees or costs the beneficiary incurred to obtain the settlement.

Medicare beneficiaries, their attorneys and primary plans report settlements to Medicare. Reporting is required so Medicare is able to determine if it made any conditional payments related to that settlement. Once reported, Medicare calculates its conditional payment amount, reduces that amount for attorney fees and costs, then issues a demand letter requiring reimbursement.

Medicare incurs costs to perform these activities. These costs include, for example, compiling related claims, calculating conditional payments, applying reductions, sending demands and providing customer service. In addition to the CMS costs associated with pursuing recovery, Medicare does not usually recover the full amount of the conditional payments. For example, there may be reductions to the demand to account for procurement costs (attorney fees and costs) or for full or partial waiver of recovery if certain criteria are met. Implementing a threshold facilitates CMS’ efficient use of its resources.


The CMS estimated the average cost of collection for Non-Group Health Plan (NGHP) cases (which includes liability insurance (including self-insurance), no-fault insurance and workers’ compensation) as approximately $421 per case. This cost of collection was based on the amount paid (invoices) to the Benefits Coordination and Recovery Contractors for work related to identifying and recovering NGHP conditional payments. CMS relied on data from fiscal year 2015. The total dollar amount paid to CMS’ contractors was divided by the number of final NGHP demand letters issued during the aforementioned date range. The average cost of collection per case was calculated to be approximately $421.

To determine settlement thresholds, CMS compared the estimated cost of collection per NGHP case of approximately $421 to the average liability insurance demand amount per settlement range. The CMS Office of Financial Management did the same comparison of the estimated cost of collection to the average no-fault insurance and workers’ compensation demand amounts per settlement range.


Based on this information, CMS determined it will maintain the existing $1000 threshold. As such, physical trauma-based liability insurance settlements of $1000 or less do not need to be reported to CMS via Section 111 mandatory insurer reporting (MIR). In addition, Medicare’s conditional payment amount for these settlements does not need to be repaid.

For workers’ compensation and no-fault insurance settlements, CMS has established a threshold of $750, where the no-fault insurer or workers’ compensation entity does not otherwise have ongoing responsibly for medicals (ORM).

However, if a conditional payment demand is received for a claim falling below the threshold, the letter must not be ignored but instead acted upon by informing the recovery contractor of the settlement amount and date and checking to be sure accurate amounts, dates and ORM were not inadvertently reported via Section 111 mandatory insurer reporting (MIR).