News from the Blues

Blue Cross and Blue Shield reports:

“Coming Aug. 1: New Member ID Cards with Bar Code Technology

As you may recall, we last changed the format of our member ID cards in 2008, as part of a Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association ID card standardization initiative. At that time, we added a magnetic stripe on the back of the ID card.

Going forward, all member ID cards printed after Aug. 1, 2011, will include a bar code instead of a magnetic stripe. There are no plans to reissue member ID cards to accommodate this new ID card technology. Because our current vendor can handle this change, there will be no disruption in process or customer service.

Please note that this change only impacts our regular group business – not labor accounts or consumer markets.

What’s a bar code? A bar code is a series of parallel lines that can be read by an optical scanner and decoded by a computer into usable information. You see bar codes every day, for example, on items you purchase in a store or when you print out an electronic ticket you’ve just bought online for an event.

The same key member data that is currently available on the magnetic stripe, such as subscriber name and ID number, plan and date of birth, will be included in the bar code. The magnetic stripe required that the member or provider have the card in hand in order to swipe it on a card reader.

One of the advantages with a bar code is that only an image of the bar code is needed. This technology allows for a mobile ID card application, which we are currently developing. Members could store that image on their smartphone or email an image to the provider. Even without an electronic image, a provider could simply use a photocopy of the bar code to easily access a patient’s information.

In addition, these new cards will be more eco-friendly. The card will be thinner, although still durable, and by removing the petroleum-based magnetic stripe, it’s better for the environment.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois will inform all external audiences of this member ID card change on our public and secure websites, via our regular newsletters or by special bulletin.”