The Department of Social and Health Services is notifying its one million medical clients that the state is switching to the same kind of plastic ID card used by private health insurance companies, a convenience for clients and doctors.
The new plastic "Services Card" will be mailed to clients in November, a month ahead of the launch of a new computer payer system called ProviderOne. The system will start reimbursing doctors, clinics, hospitals and nursing homes for medical assistance services on Dec. 6.
Until then, the Medicaid system relies on monthly mailed paper coupons to establish client eligibility for about 900,000 medical assistance clients and another 100,000 family planning clients.
In the past, medical assistance consumers and families presented a paper coupon to medical providers, showing they are enrolled in Medicaid each month. With the plastic card, doctors will be able to use the new ProviderOne client ID number on the card to access the system and verify eligibility within the computer.
Even if the client does not have his or her card, the doctor can still verify eligibility by knowing the client's full name, birth date, ProviderOne client ID number, Social Security number or some combination of those.
The card does not include any personal health information and would not threaten clients' privacy or security even if the card is lost or stolen
The state currently spends more than $2.5 million a year on the monthly coupon mailings, but the plastic Services Card is a permanent form of ID that should be mailed only once.
"Ultimately, DSHS hopes to add other programs that will be able to tie into the Services Card," said Doug Porter, State Medicaid director and an assistant secretary for DSHS. "But even then, the Services Card will not replace the debit cards that are used for cash assistance or the Basic Food program."
The card will help identify our clients to doctors and clinics, but like a commercial insurance ID card, it won't have any other value of its own.
Porter said tests of the card have registered positively with clients since it replaces the minor hassle of getting a new coupon every month. It also removes the need to remember the new coupon at each doctor's office visit.
It is important clients understand that the new cards will not arrive in their mailbox until November, and they will not actually help doctors verify eligibility until the Dec. 6 go-live date for ProviderOne.
"During November, we are advising clients that they can take both the card and the mailed coupon with them to the provider's office," Porter said. "In December, they will not get a coupon in the mail - the Services Card is all they need."
Clients or providers with questions about the new card can refer to a fact sheet that includes a set of Service Card questions and answers on the Medicaid website at http://hrsa.dshs.wa.gov and on the ProviderOne website at http://hrsa.dshs.wa.gov/providerone/Clients.htm
Two more alerts are planned for medical assistance clients. A postcard will be mailed to all clients in October. It will include information about the cards and how they should be used. In addition, another insert in the November coupon mailing will remind clients that the Services Cards will be mailed out later that month in time for clients to start using them in December.