Insurers Compete To Enroll Seniors in Supplemental Medicare Plans in Sonoma County After HPR Closure
Health plans in California are mounting "major efforts" this week to attract the 11,000 seniors enrolled in Health Plan of the Redwoods' Medicare HMO who will lose coverage when the health insurer ceases operations, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports (Rose, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 9/10). Faced with an $8 million budget deficit since Jan. 1, HPR filed for federal Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 31. HPR officials estimate that the health plan owes $38.7 million to creditors, which include local hospitals, physicians and other health care professionals (California Healthline, 8/5). HPR last month decided to liquidate and shut down by Oct. 31, which would leave 78,000 members of the Sonoma County health plan with only three months to find a new health insurer, including 11,000 seniors enrolled in the insurer's Medicare+Choice plan (California Healthline, 8/16). Only Kaiser Permanente offers a Medicare HMO in the county, but it has capped enrollment for this year and has not set its plans for next year. However, PacifiCare, Health Net and more than 50 independent insurer agents are offering Medicare Supplement plans to the displaced seniors, who will be enrolled in traditional fee-for-service Medicare if they do not select a new plan (Santa Rosa Press Democrat¸ 9/10). While supplemental Medicare coverage typically offers more benefits than a Medicare HMO, the programs are more expensive, usually costing from $20 to $100 more a month (Rose, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 9/11).
To attract seniors, the insurers, along with not-for-profit organizations, including the Health Insurance and Counseling Advocacy Project, are holding information sessions to promote the Medicare Supplemental plans. Kathy Feeny, PacifiCare's executive vice president, said the enrollment campaign was its "largest ... in several years" because it is "unusual" for insurers like HPR to shut down. She added the "intense" competition for seniors has forced PacifiCare to "competitively price its plans" and to offer a separate prescription drug plan. "Our goal is to get back in the game in Sonoma County now that HPR is going out of business," she added (Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 9/10).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.