MEDICARE HMOS: Cancellations Leave Bay Area Seniors in a Bind
In the wake of Bay Area HMOs' move to shed their Medicare businesses, the San Francisco Chronicle takes a look at seniors' options as they scramble to find health care alternatives. In recent months, 11,000 seniors in the region have faced uncertainty after their HMO canceled its Medicare contract, and "everyone is trying to figure out what is going to happen now," explained Pat Luby, legislative representative for the American Association of Retired Persons in Sacramento. Seniors are expressing concern that they may be forced to switch to providers that are located far away from their homes. "People are calling and they're worried," said Bonnie Burns, director of education for the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program. Burns noted that HICAP offers free, one-on-one counseling to seniors with health questions. And while the future seems uncertain, at least one industry leader is predicting a turnaround for Medicare HMOs. Walter Zelman, president of the California Association of Health Plans, conceded that "[s]hort term we may seem some (new policy) cancellations." However, he said, "[L]ong term I expect to see HMOs and lawmakers reach accommodation, with the result being more health plans participating in Medicare HMOs rather than less" (Abate, 1/26).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.