Blue Cross of Georgia May Drop Medicare HMO After Purchase
Officials at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, whose parent firm, Cerulean, is being acquired by WellPoint Health Networks, will face a "thorny decision" soon after the acquisition -- whether to drop its Medicare HMO, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The "status" of Blue Cross' Medicare HMO plan, which covers about 26,000 Georgia seniors, "came into question" yesterday when the Department of Community Health said the plan would no longer be offered to retirees in the State Health Benefits Plan after July because Blue Cross could not commit to providing the plan past Jan. 1, 2002. Charlie Harman, a Blue Cross vice president, said the company will make a decision on the HMO in June, adding that government reimbursements, "market conditions" and congressional support for the program will factor into the decision. However, the Journal-Constitution reports that WellPoint is not a "major player" in the Medicare+Choice market. In addition, Harman said, WellPoint CEO Leonard Schaeffer has said that he has "issues or concerns about the product," although the company has emphasized that operational decisions for Blue Cross of Georgia, including on this issue, will be made locally. If Blue Cross "pulls out" of the Medicare+Choice market, Kaiser Permanente would be the sole Medicare HMO in Georgia. Kaiser Permanente has "made a commitment" to continue offering its Medicare HMO past the new year but "would face a difficult challenge to serve all Medicare HMO members locally if Blue Cross should drop out," Kaiser spokesperson Beverly Thomas said (Miller, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.