The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today approved a request by HealthNow New York Inc. to expand managed care coverage to Medicare beneficiaries in Orleans and southern Chautauqua counties in western New York state.
HealthNow New York, based in Buffalo, N.Y., does business as BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York. It can begin serving on April 1, 2003, Medicare beneficiaries in Orleans County in the Rochester, N.Y., area and the part of Chautauqua County not already served by the plan, including the city of Jamestown. About 33,000 beneficiaries live in the managed care organization's newly approved service area. Beneficiaries can sign up for the plan during the current Medicare+Choice open enrollment.
HealthNow New York began serving beneficiaries in April 1998 in the Albany and Buffalo metro areas. It currently offers Medicare+Choice plans in 15 upstate New York counties – Albany, northern Chautauqua, Columbia, Erie, Fulton, Genesee, Greene, Montgomery, Niagara, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren, Washington and Wyoming.
"We are pleased HealthNow New York decided to expand this health plan to include more Medicare beneficiaries in western New York," 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."
HealthNow New York will give another health care choice to beneficiaries in the two counties. Two Medicare+Choice plans, Excellus Health Plan and Independent Health, currently are in both counties and Preferred Care HMO operates in Orleans 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."
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