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.
Definition of a HIC
The HIC is a number identifying each Medicare participant. The number is most often a combination of the beneficiary's 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.
Change of HIC
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.
Reasons for Changing HICs
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.