MANAGED CARE PLAN EXPANDS TO INCLUDE MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES IN FOUR SOUTHEASTERN IDAHO COUNTIES
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved a request by Blue Cross of Idaho Health Services Inc. to expand managed care coverage to Medicare beneficiaries in four southeastern Idaho counties.
Blue Cross of Idaho Health Services, based in Meridian , Idaho , will begin serving beneficiaries on June 1 in Bannock County , including the city of Pocatello , and the rural counties of Caribou, Oneida and Power. Medicare beneficiaries can sign up for the plan during the current open enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans. About 13,000 beneficiaries live in the four counties.
"We are pleased that Blue Cross of Idaho Health Services decided to expand this health plan to include more beneficiaries in Idaho ,” HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. "Under the Medicare reform law signed by President Bush, Medicare will provide all seniors - no matter where they live - with better health insurance options, including prescription drug coverage and preventive care. The law is achieving the President's goals of strengthening and modernizing Medicare.”
Blue Cross of Idaho Health Services, which offers the product True Blue, began serving Medicare beneficiaries in 1997 in Ada and Canyon counties, including the city of Boise . The company expanded its original service area in 2003 to include Payette, Gem, Boise , Owyhee and Washington counties and this month began serving beneficiaries in Bonner and Kootenai counties in northern Idaho .
The plan will give another health care option to beneficiaries living in the four counties southeastern Idaho . The two Medicare Advantage plans currently operating in those counties are Blue Shield of Idaho (cost plan) and Sterling Private Fee-for-Service.
"We want to make sure all Medicare beneficiaries, whether in a Medicare Advantage plan or fee-for-service, are receiving the highest quality health care," said CMS Administrator Mark McClellan, M.D., Ph.D. "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."
Since Dec. 8, 2003, when President Bush signed the Medicare Modernization Act into law, CMS has approved 71 new contracts with Medicare health plans and 97 service area expansions. There are currently 218 applications pending for new contracts and 85 service area expansions pending.
Medicare Advantage 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.
Medicare has 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.