MEDICARE HMOs: NEW PROGRAMS PROVIDE EXPANDED OPTIONS
The Health Care Financing Administration has approved twoThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
new programs to give Medicare HMO enrollees more flexibility
under managed care. United HealthCare Corporation's United
Health Passport, an "extended absence membership program," will
be available to members of participating United HealthCare plans
beginning this month. The plan, which is available to members at
no additional cost, will extend coverage for seniors when they
travel outside their home health plan service area. "The
Passport program was created due to consumer response. Our
Medicare members want health care coverage that can travel with
them," said Jeannine Rivet, United's executive vice president.
The Passport program extends benefits coverage, including
preventive care, office visits and prescription drugs for up to
nine continuous months. Some services, such as specialty and
inpatient care, require prior authorization. Previously,
coverage was restricted to emergency or urgent care when Medicare
health plan members traveled outside their home area; a 90-day
travel insurance rider was sometimes available for an additional
COME TO SUNNY FLORIDA: "United Health Passport works much
like a reciprocity program. We expect that during the winter,
Florida and other southern health plans will attract a large
volume of travelers, and during the summer, northern plans will
see an increase of visitors," said Tom Anderson, vice president
of United's Medicare Programs. "Many Medicare members aren't
accustomed to managed health plans, so we've structured the
program to make it easy to use. Once members have activated
their Passport feature, they use their member ID card with the
United Health Passport logo to access care," Anderson said.
United HealthCare currently has more than 18 Medicare health plan
sites nationwide; the company expects to add a "significant"
number of plans this year, eventually reaching 25 states (United
HealthCare release, 1/8).
NO MORE TRAVEL BLUES: The Blue Cross and Blue Shield
Association has launched Medicare Blue USA, a network that allows
Blue Medicare HMO enrollees to register as a guest member with
another Blue plan for up to six months. Members will receive
routine and other care as a guest member at no additional cost.
Patrick Hays, president and CEO of the Blue Cross Association,
said, "Medicare Blue USA's Guest Program will revolutionize the
way seniors receive care within the Medicare Managed Care
Program." Fifteen Blues plans across the country are currently
participating in Medicare Blue USA, including Blue Shield of
California, Blue Cross of California, BC/BS of Florida, Empire
BC/BS and BC/BS of South Carolina (Blue Cross Blue Shield
Association release, 1/6).