HEALTH ASSURANCE PENNSYLVANIA INC. TO OFFER MEDICARE MANAGED CARE PLAN IN ALLEGHENY COUNTY, PA.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved a request by Health Assurance Pennsylvania Inc. to offer a Medicare managed care plan in Allegheny County in western Pennsylvania as part of a demonstration program recently announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. The health plans under this program are modeled after coverage offered by preferred provider organizations (PPOs) to most Americans under age 65.
Health Assurance Pennsylvania, based in Pittsburgh, is now serving Medicare beneficiaries in Allegheny County, including the city of Pittsburgh. Beneficiaries can sign up for the plan during the current Medicare+Choice open enrollment. Health Assurance Pennsylvania is a subsidiary of Coventry Health Care Inc., based in Bethesda, Md.
About 245,000 Medicare beneficiaries live in Allegheny County. These beneficiaries already may also choose among other Medicare+Choice plans – Aetna U.S. Healthcare Inc., HealthAmerica Pennsylvania Inc.’s existing Advantra HMO plan, Keystone Health Plan West Inc., and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
"This program gives seniors new options for their Medicare coverage similar to that available in the private insurance market," Secretary Thompson said. "Greater access and expanded options and choices in health care are key goals of this Administration."
Congress created Medicare+Choice in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 to expand the types of health care options available to Medicare beneficiaries, enabling them to receive new preventive benefits and greater patient protections. Preferred provider type coverage was previously unavailable to Medicare beneficiaries.
"Whether beneficiaries enroll in a PPO or another Medicare+Choice plan, or fee-for-service Medicare, we are doing more to guarantee they understand the Medicare options available to them," CMS Administrator Tom Scully said. " The under age 65 market is rapidly flocking toward PPO products, which give patients the flexibility they need. Seniors want the same options and this is the big first step in getting them there."
Currently, Medicare+Choice health maintenance organizations (HMOs) are available where private companies choose to offer them. About 4.6 million Medicare beneficiaries -- out of a total of about 40 million aged and disabled Americans -- have enrolled in Medicare HMOs. Original fee-for-service Medicare, available to all beneficiaries, is currently chosen by more than 35 million beneficiaries. Unlike traditional HMOs, the new options will allow beneficiaries who choose to enroll, access to services provided outside the contracted network of providers.
The demonstration program, announced Aug. 27, 2002, includes new health plans that will ultimately be available in 23 states across the country, expanding health care options to approximately 11 million Medicare beneficiaries.
The demonstration plans will be considered Medicare+Choice plans and must offer all of Medicare’s required benefits, but will also have the flexibility to offer additional services. Most important, they will offer beneficiaries a wider choice of health care providers than is currently offered in HMOs.
A number of resources with information regarding the plan offered by Health Assurance Pennsylvania are available as part of various CMS consumer information sources, including a national toll-free phone number -- 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), or TTY/TDD, at 877-486-2048, and the CMS Internet site -- www.medicare.gov. In addition, a coalition of more than 200 national and local organizations is available to assist seniors in making informed decisions about their health care options.