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Medicaid to start mailing out plastic cards to 1 million medical assistance clients across the state

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The new Services Card will replace the monthly coupons Washington residents on medical assistance currently receive. The new cards are part of a changeover to a new payment system called ProviderOne.

During the month of April the Department of Social and Health Services will start mailing its one million medical assistance clients the same kind of plastic ID card used by private health insurance companies.

The new "Service Cards" are part of the changeover to a new payment system called ProviderOne, which will go on line Sunday, May 9. The new cards represent a convenience for clients, doctors, dentists, hospitals and other kinds of providers. The cards replace monthly mailings of a paper coupon.

The new cards, which are free, will be mailed out first in the Spokane area and northeastern Washington, from April 9 to April 13.

The rest of the mailings will cross the state, finishing in the southwestern corner of the state:

* April 14-19: Other Eastern Washington points.

* April 20-23: Northwestern Washington.

* April 24-28: King County.

* April 29-May 3: Pierce County.

* May 4-7: Olympic Peninsula and Southwestern Washington.

The mailings will be complete by the time ProviderOne starts reimbursing doctors, clinics, hospitals and nursing homes for their services to Medicaid and other medical assistance programs in the Department of Social and Health Services. Once it goes online, ProviderOne will be handling more than $17 million a day in provider payments.

In the past, Medicaid clients and families presented the paper coupon to their doctor to show that they were eligible for services that month. With the plastic card, doctors will be able to use the new ProviderOne client ID number on the card to access the payment computer system and verify eligibility electronically.

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 facts. The card itself does not include any personal health information and will not threaten clients' privacy or security even if the card is lost or stolen.

"Ultimately, we hope to add other programs that will be able to tie into the Services Card," said Doug Porter, state Medicaid director. "Its purpose in those service programs will be the same as in Medicaid. It will help providers identify our clients and show that they are eligible for the services."

Also, like a Blue Cross or Group Health card, the Service Card won't have any value of its own. It is free to clients and it will be replaced without charge if it is lost or stolen. Porter said tests of the card have registered positively with clients since it replaces the minor hassle of getting a new coupon every month and remembering to bring it to the doctor's office.

"Clients who receive the cards during April are being encouraged to take both the card and the mailed coupon with them to the provider's office," Porter said. "In May, we will stop mailing out the paper coupons - the Services Card is all anyone will need."

Clients or providers with questions about the new Services 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.

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