Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Most seniors dropped by HMOs yet to pick backup

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Most of the seniors who were dropped last year when three Medicare HMOs pulled out of town are not switching to the two plans still doing business here.

        Last year, nearly 27,000 people had to rearrange their health coverage after Aetna U.S. Healthcare, Humana and PacifiCare announced plans to drop their Medicare HMOs effective Jan. 1.

    For information about Medicare options, seniors can call a toll-free hot line, (800) MEDICARE (633-4227).
    St. Elizabeth's PrimeWise program also is hosting a Medicare workshop at 1 p.m. Feb. 22-23 at its North unit in Covington. Information: (859) 578-5999.
        So far, about 12,000 people have joined the two companies still offering Medicare HMOs. United Healthcare of Ohio estimates it has added 4,000 to 5,000 members; Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield estimates adding about 7,000.

        “Many seniors are still leery about the other Medicare HMOs,” said Terry Deavy, coordinator of the PrimeWise senior health education program at Northern Kentucky's St. Elizabeth Medical Center.

        Seniors who got dropped have had two basic choices: switch to another Medicare HMO or go back to regular Medicare.

        Many of those choosing Medicare have bought supplemental plans to cover co-payments and deductibles. Most of those plans, however, do not offer prescription drug coverage — a popular feature of most Medicare HMOs.

        In Northern Kentucky, the choices have been even more limited, Ms. Deavy said. Anthem is the only Medicare HMO serving Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties, and it has no contract with St. Elizabeth Medical Center.

        Seniors dropped from Medicare HMOs still have time to act. Anthem and United are still enrolling. And until March 4, seniors are guaranteed to be accepted into one of four basic types of Medicare supplemental plans.

Goal: 'Health-care independence' for seniors

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