MANAGED CARE PLAN EXPANDS TO INCLUDE MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES IN WALKER COUNTY, ALA.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today approved a request by UnitedHealthcare of Alabama Inc. to expand managed care coverage to Medicare beneficiaries in Walker County in central Alabama.
UnitedHealthcare of Alabama, based in Birmingham, Ala., can begin serving beneficiaries in rural Walker County on Sept. 1, 2003. Medicare beneficiaries can sign up for the plan during the current Medicare+Choice open enrollment. About 14,500 beneficiaries live in the county.
The company began serving beneficiaries in 1995 in the Alabama counties of Blount, Chilton, Jefferson, St. Clair and Shelby, including the city of Birmingham. Earlier this year, the plan expanded into rural Bibb County in central Alabama.
"We are pleased UnitedHealthcare of Alabama decided to expand this health plan to include Medicare beneficiaries in Walker County," 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 Alabama is a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, based in Minnetonka, Minn. No other Medicare+Choice plans are currently available in Walker 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.