Medicare to issue new cards in 2018 to protect identities of retirees

Published: July 24, 2017

Last updated on August 31st, 2017

Whether a person is receiving Medicare through Social Security or through the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), the patient may be vulnerable to identity theft due to the SSN/RRB Claim number being present on their Medicare card.

Soon, you won’t need to worry about someone obtaining your personal information from your Medicare card. Starting in April 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in conjunction with the RRB, will begin issuing new cards with a ‘Medicare Beneficiary Identifier’ or MBI. These cards will be sent in phases to existing Medicare beneficiaries, and by April 2019, all Medicare/Railroad Medicare cards will be free of personally identifiable information. This includes the removal of the gender and signature line.

Here is what an MBI will look like:

  • It will have 11 characters
  • The numbers will be generated randomly. Medicare considers them ‘non-intelligent’ numbers that don’t have any hidden or special meaning
  • It will be unique to each patient
  • It will contain capital letters (all letters with the exception of S, L, O, I, B and Z) and numbers (0-9)
  • The 2nd, 5th, 8th, and 9th characters will always be a letter, while
  • Characters 1, 4, 7, 10, and 11 will always be a number, and
  • The 3rd and 6th characters will be a letter or a number
  • There will be no dashes in the numbers on the card

To learn more about the layout of an MBI, please visit this CMS webpage:

As you may have experienced, providers can’t always tell the difference between an SSN patient and a RRB patient. They may submit your claims to regular Medicare, instead of Railroad Medicare. To help providers know what patient they have, the new cards will have the RRB logo on them when applicable, so your doctor’s office will know where to submit claims.

This October, you will receive your 2018 Medicare & You handbook, which will contain additional information about the MBI change.

If you have a question about a claim, you may call Palmetto GBA’s Beneficiary Contact Center at 800-833-4455, or for the hearing-impaired, call TTY/TDD at 877-566-3572. Customer Service Representatives are available Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. ET. You’re also encouraged to visit Palmetto’s website at