Definition of Medicare HIC Number

Definition of Medicare HIC Number
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Medicare beneficiaries used to receive a plastic Medicare card with a Health Insurance Claims, HIC, number. The HIC number identifies the Medicare beneficiary in the Medicare system, allowing for the smooth processing of claims and ensuring benefits are routed to the correct places. A HIC is sometimes called a HICAN or HICBIC. It has recently been replaced with a randomly generated Medicare Beneficiary Identifier, or MBI, which serves the same purpose.



The HIC or Health Insurance Claims number is a unique patient identifier which allows for claims to be processed by the medicare system. The number has recently been replaced by the Medicare Beneficiary identifier or MBI.

Definition of Medicare

Medicare is a health insurance program that is a combination of public funds and private health care providers. Medicare is administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the Department of Health and Human Services. There are two parts to the Medicare Program: Part A, hospital insurance, and Part B, supplementary medical insurance. Part A insurance is allocated to everyone who is eligible for the program. Part B is optional and requires an additional premium.


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Definition of a HIC

The HIC is a number identifying each Medicare participant. The number is most often a combination of the beneficiary's nine-digit social security number and two-digit Beneficiary Identity Code, BIC. The BIC identifies the relationship between the beneficiary and the Medicare primary cardholder. For example, the BIC might identify your spouse. If you are a former employee of the railroad, the HIC might be your railroad board number instead of your social security number.

Unlike a social security number, which is only allocated once during a person's lifetime, it's possible for a HIC to change throughout a person's life. While the first nine digits of the number remain the same, the last two change because of the changed BIC, creating an entirely different HIC number. The process of keeping track of a person's multiple HICs is called BIC equating. It's estimated that 1 to 3 percent of Medicaid recipients change their HICs every year.


HICs usually change because of a major life event, like the death of a spouse. The spouse's BIC identifier changes to identify the person as a widow instead of a spouse. Another common reason for a HIC to change is if a widow finds out they could receive better Medicare benefits if she used her deceased husband's work record instead of her own. To do this, she requests that her HIC be changed to her deceased husband's social security number instead of her own.

The Move to MBIs

To fight medical identity theft, Medicare is removing social security numbers from all Medicare cards. As a result, the HIC is being phased out and replaced with a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier on cards for the purpose of eligibility, claims and billing. The MBI is clearly different from the old HIC, comprising 11 characters made up of numbers and uppercase letters. The transition period will expire in 2020, by which time all Medicare participants should have received a new card containing their MBI. The eligibility for benefits will not change.