MEDICARE HMOs: Kaiser to Halt Medicare Enrollment
Kaiser Permanente last week announced its plans to stop enrollment of new Medicare HMO members in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia next month, fearing that thousands of seniors who have been dropped by area HMOs will overwhelm the insurer's system, the Washington Post reports. Kaiser's decision comes after CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna Corp. and United Healthcare of the Mid-Atlantic announced last month that they will shut down their Medicare HMOs at the end of the year, leaving nearly 50,000 seniors in the area looking for coverage alternatives. Kaiser spokesperson Susan Simon said, "We were concerned that as people were looking at dwindling options that they would sort of make the knee-jerk reaction and just move to [Kaiser]." She added, "We don't have the physician staffing to be able to absorb everybody, to serve everybody and give them the kind of treatment and care we think they should have." Currently, Kaiser serves 27,000 seniors in the region through its Senior Advantage plan. Seniors, however, still can sign up with Kaiser, as the enrollment freeze does not begin until Aug. 8 (Brubaker, 7/8).
On the Other Hand ...
Despite the nationwide exodus of insurers from the Medicare+Choice program, Intergroup and PacifiCare are staging a battle over nearly 16,500 Medicare beneficiaries in Pima County, Ariz., the Arizona Daily Star reports. The HMOs are the only two in the area that will offer a Medicare option after this year, as United and Cigna will drop their plans. With the two largest Medicaid memberships in the state, both Intergroup and PacifiCare will continue offering Medicare HMO coverage for at least one more year. However, officials for both companies indicated that members should be prepared to pay higher co-payments for doctor visits, prescription drugs and other benefits next year (Erikson, 7/9).