Date

Press release

MANAGED CARE PLAN EXPANDS TO INCLUDE MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES IN 7 WESTERN N.C. COUNTIES

MANAGED CARE PLAN EXPANDS TO INCLUDE MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES IN 7 WESTERN N.C. COUNTIES

     The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved a request by UnitedHealthcare of North Carolina to expand managed care coverage to Medicare beneficiaries in seven western North Carolina counties.

     UnitedHealthcare of North Carolina, based in Greensboro, N.C., is now serving Medicare beneficiaries in the western Piedmont counties of Davie, Davidson, Rowan, Stokes, Surry, Wilkes and Yadkin.  About 86,000 beneficiaries live in the managed care organization's newly approved service area.  Beneficiaries can enroll in one of two product offerings that include preventive care and prescription drug coverage.  

     The company, which operates as UnitedHealthcare Medicare Complete, began to serve beneficiaries in May 1998, in North Carolina's Piedmont counties of Rockingham, Guilford, Forsyth, Randolph and Alamance.  UnitedHealthcare expanded in August 1999 into the Triangle counties of Chatham, Durham, Orange and Wake. Mecklenburg County was included in May 2002.

     "We are pleased UnitedHealthcare of North Carolina decided to expand this health plan to include more Medicare beneficiaries in North Carolina’s western Piedmont area," HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said.  "The reality is, Medicare should provide all seniors - no matter where they live - with better health insurance options, including prescription drug coverage and preventive care.  The President's goals for strengthening and modernizing Medicare will move us closer to that goal."

     UnitedHealthcare of NorthCarolina is a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, based in Minnetonka, Minn. The plan will give another health care choice to Medicare beneficiaries in the seven western Piedmont counties, who can also choose PARTNERS National Health Plans of North Carolina in those counties.

     "We want to make sure all Medicare beneficiaries, whether in a Medicare+Choice plan or fee-for-service, are receiving the highest quality health care," CMS Administrator Tom Scully said.  "We are doing more to guarantee that beneficiaries understand the Medicare coverage options available to them.  We also are reminding beneficiaries of the need to work closely with the doctors and other health care providers that give them medical care."

     Medicare+Choice HMOs and fee-for-service plans are available where private companies choose to offer them.  Currently, 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, currently chosen by more than 35 million beneficiaries, is available to all beneficiaries.

     Congress created Medicare+Choice in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 to expand the types of health care options available to Medicare beneficiaries, who in addition can now receive new preventive benefits and patient protections.  There also is a far-reaching consumer information program that includes a national toll-free phone number -- 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or TTY/TDD, at 877-486-2048 -- an Internet site -- www.medicare.gov -- and a coalition of more than 200 national and local organizations to provide seniors more information.