MANAGED CARE PLAN EXPANDS TO INCLUDE MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES IN BRISTOL COUNTY, R.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved a request by UnitedHealthcare of New England Inc. to expand its managed care plan to Medicare beneficiaries in Bristol County, R.I.
UnitedHealthcare of New England, based in Warwick, R.I., will begin serving Medicare beneficiaries in Bristol County on Feb. 1, 2003. About 9,000 beneficiaries live in the managed care organization's newly approved service area. Beneficiaries can sign up for the plan during the current open enrollment.
The company, which operates as United Healthcare, began serving beneficiaries in Rhode Island in 1996. United Healthcare currently operates a Medicare+Choice plan in the Rhode Island counties of Kent, Providence and Washington, including the city of Providence.
"We are pleased UnitedHealthcare of New England decided to expand this health plan to include more Medicare beneficiaries in Rhode Island," 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 New England is a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, based in Minnetonka, Minn. The company’s product, Medicare Complete, gives Medicare beneficiaries in Bristol County another Medicare+Choice organization to select. Coordinated Health Partners also operates in the county.
"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."
President Bush has said the current Medicare+Choice system for paying private plans is not giving beneficiaries the health care options they deserve. Annual increases in Medicare+Choice funding have failed to reflect rising health care costs, leading to unreliable options and reduced benefits for seniors. Under the President's proposal, all Medicare+Choice plans will receive payment increases in 2003.
Medicare+Choice HMOs and fee-for-service plans are available where private companies choose to offer them. Currently, about 5.6 million Medicare beneficiaries -- out of a total of nearly 40 million aged and disabled Americans -- have enrolled in Medicare HMOs. Original fee-for-service Medicare, currently chosen by more than 34 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.