MEDICARE HMOs: Kaiser Begins Charging Monthly Premiums
Sacramento-area seniors will pay more for health coverage as area HMOs raise premiums, the Sacramento Business Journal reports. To cope with low government reimbursement, Kaiser Permanente, Sacramento's largest health plan with 54,367 senior HMO members, will begin charging monthly premiums of $40 in Sacramento, El Dorado, Yolo and Placer counties, and three other area HMOs -- PacifiCare, Health Net and Western Health Advantage -- are considering premium hikes next year. Denise Hanson, Kaiser's California director of Medicare and state programs, said, "The maximum level of increase from (the federal government) is about 2% a year. [Kaiser has] been seeing medical costs increase from 6% to the double digits." Although the House recently approved a $3.6 billion boost in funding for Medicare HMOs over five years, final action on the funds is on hold. California HealthCare Foundation's Medicare Project Director Jack Christy remains skeptical that the government will take action soon. He said, "Everybody in Congress is tripping over themselves to say on the record they support more money to Medicare, but there is no law as yet and talk is cheap." Kaiser has held off on charging monthly premiums in past years, even as other health plans adopted the practice, but this year the HMO began charging a $50 per month premium in Fresno County, and plans to charge premiums statewide by 2001. Premiums "range from $30 in the Bay Area to $40 in rural areas and the Sacramento Valley," and Fresno County residents will continue paying $50 per month (Robertson, 8/14).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.