What’s a Medicare Summary Notice (MSN)?

Healthcare Writer

Updated on: September 1st, 2020

Reviewed by Elaine Wong Eakin

We aim to help you make informed healthcare decisions. While this post may contain links to lead generation forms, this won’t influence our writing. We follow strict editorial standards to give you the most accurate and unbiased information.

The many dollar signs on a Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) might stand out to you – but there’s no need to panic or reach for your checkbook. Medicare Summary Notices are not bills. An MSN gives a detailed list of services you’ve already received. It’s Medicare’s equivalent of the explanation of benefits (EOB) letters used by Medicare Advantage or other private health insurance companies.

MSNs list all the health care services and items that you received over a 3-month period. MSNs will tell you what Medicare paid. They’ll also list the maximum amount you may still owe.

MSNs are one of the most common types of Medicare mail you’ll get. You’ll receive separate MSNs for Medicare Part A, Medicare Part B, and durable medical equipment.

If you didn’t receive Medicare-covered services or items for 3 months, then you won’t receive an MSN for that time period. This goes for Part A or Part B MSNs.

How Do You Read A Medicare Summary Notice?

An MSN will include basic information about services or items you recently received.

Medicare Summary Notices will include the primary care doctors and specialists who attended to you. They will give you a precise update on the status of your annual Part B deductible or periodic Part A deductible. They’ll also list whether your claims were approved (hopefully!) or denied.

If you have a Medicare Supplement plan, your MSN will note that the claim was sent to the Medicare Supplement for processing. 

MSNs are helpful because they establish a record of your care, separate from billing purposes.

Do You Have To Do Anything Once You Get A Medicare Summary Notice?

You should read through it and check for errors or potential fraud. If your list of services doesn’t match up with the care you remember receiving, then you should follow up with the Medicare program.

Rejected Claims: If any of your claims were denied, an MSN will provide a jumping-off point. Check with your doctor or provider. If your claim shouldn’t have been denied, submit an appeal to Medicare using the form included with the MSN. 

Can You Get Medicare Summary Notices Electronically?

MyMedicare.gov is the place to go for paperless Medicare Summary Notices. If you lose your MSN, you can reprint additional copies on MyMedicare.gov to your heart’s content. “Going green” for eMSNs has the added benefit of freeing up your file cabinet, and you can get the forms and review them quickly, rather than waiting 3 months for them to show up in the mailbox.

You can also sign up for email delivery of eMSNs that will replace your MSNs from the postal service. Electronic delivery will process your eMSNs each month instead of every 3 months.

Electronic delivery is a particularly important option for people who are concerned about fraud. Scammers won’t be able to take MSNs out of your mailbox, and you’ll have quicker access to your information.

Here’s How You Sign Up for Electronic Medicare Summary Notices:

  1. Log into your account on MyMedicare.gov (if you don’t have an account, you can create one).
  2. Select “My Account” from the main menu.
  3. Find the “User information” tab.
  4. Click “Email and Correspondence Settings.”
  5. Find the “Electronic Medicare Summary Notices (eMSNs)” area, then select “Edit.”
  6. Select “Yes” and then “Submit.”

Example Medicare Summary Notices:

Medicare Summary Notice PartB1
Medicare Summary Notice PartB3

What If I Am In a Medicare Advantage Plan? 

Medicare Advantage (Part C): If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, your plan will send you an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) listing services and items you have received from the plan. If you fill your prescription medications through your Medicare Advantage plan, your plan will send you an EOB listing the prescriptions you have filled. 

Medicare Part D: Your Medicare Part D prescription drug plan will send you an EOB. 

How Long Should You Keep Medicare Summary Notices?

There’s no “official” rule as to how long you should keep MSNs.

You’re not required to retain them, so you can recycle your MSN as soon as you get it. Fortunately, it’s also easy to get copies online if you sign up for electronic access.

For those of us who are a little more careful about keeping their records, there are three schools of thought: what Medicare says, what you need for tax purposes, and what you need to understand your own medical history.

  • Medicare generally recommends that you keep notices for 1 to 3 years. It’s extremely unusual that Medicare would follow up on anything older than that. In any case, Medicare ought to have copies of your records.
  • Tax purposes are generally a good index for document retention. In most cases, the IRS can’t audit you after 3 years have passed. In rare cases, you may need to document deductions or keep records on file for up to 7 years. That’s really the maximum.
  • For your own sake, do what you’re comfortable with. Anything that helps track your doctor visits and hospital procedures can be helpful. Keep MSNs for as long as you feel it’s necessary to remember your medical history.

If you change your address or name, contact Social Security at www.ssa.gov, call 1-800-772-1213, or visit a Social Security office to make sure that MSNs keep coming your way. Paper MSNs are mailed to your address on file with Social Security. 

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