PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 3, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Independence Blue Cross (IBC) today announced important news for Medicare beneficiaries: a new individual Medicare Advantage HMO plan with premiums as low as $15 a month. The plan – Keystone 65 Select HMO – has a strong suite of benefits, and offers a select group of hospitals in IBC's current network. The new plan will be offered in all five counties that IBC now serves and is effective beginning January 1, 2012.
"Medicare is just one of the many areas in our business where we saw an opportunity to be more responsive to our customers' needs and were able to develop an innovative solution to meet those needs," said Daniel J. Hilferty, president and CEO of IBC. "We share our members' concern about access to affordable Medicare health plans, and we're pleased to launch this new HMO that offers low monthly premiums with the same high quality benefits and services our members expect from us."
"This plan offers a more affordable option, and we expect it will attract beneficiaries who may have left us in the past to take another look at our plans this fall," said Robert J. Smith, vice president, Sales and Marketing for Government Markets.
"The Keystone 65 Select HMO provides access to many of our region's top hospitals and we are excited that these facilities were eager to participate in this network and share our concern about controlling health care costs," continued Smith. "Our Medicare Advantage plans also include the very popular award-winning SilverSneakers fitness program, which offers free gym memberships and specialized exercise classes for older adults."
A list of all hospitals participating in the new Keystone 65 Select HMO plan is available at www.ibxmedicare.com.
In addition to Keystone 65 Select HMO, IBC will offer a full portfolio of health plans in 2012, including HMO, PPO, prescription drug, and Medicare Supplement products.
Hearing, dental and vision coverage
IBC's plans currently offer hearing, dental and vision coverage. Some are included in the monthly premium, and others can be purchased for $10 extra a month. IBC also offers BlueExtra(SM), a low-cost supplemental plan that includes dental, vision, and hearing aid coverage – benefits that are often not included in Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement plans. BlueExtra may be purchased by anyone who would like to have hearing, dental, or vision coverage in addition to their medical coverage, whether they are covered by an IBC health plan or not.
Helping beneficiaries enroll in a health care plan
Under health care reform, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) now generally permit individual Medicare beneficiaries to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan or Part D plan only during the six-week annual enrollment period (AEP), from October 15 to December 7. Beneficiaries cannot change to another Medicare Advantage plan after December 7. This is a change from previous years when beneficiaries could change plans after the AEP, from January 1 through March 31.
From January 1 to February 14, CMS allows Medicare beneficiaries to disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan and sign up for a Medicare Supplement or return to Original Medicare.
To help beneficiaries understand their options in this shorter enrollment period, IBC will offer more than 160 informational meetings for members and prospective members held in convenient locations throughout the region. Members and prospective members are encouraged to sign up for a session at www.ibxmedicare.com
In addition, starting this year, licensed brokers and agents can sell IBC's individual Medicare Advantage plans, providing another way for beneficiaries to learn about IBC's options.
Why Medicare Advantage?
In addition to providing coverage for many of the benefits not covered by Original Medicare, IBC's Medicare Advantage plans offer wellness and preventive services, such as health coaching, care management, and Healthy Lifestyles, which includes weight management and smoking cessation programs.
Medicare Advantage beneficiaries are less likely to be re-admitted to the hospital by as much as 14 to 29 percent, compared to beneficiaries in Original Medicare fee-for-service plans, according to a June 2010 study by America's Health Insurance Plans. The study reported that Medicare Advantage plans may be lowering hospital readmission rates by providing more access to after-hours care and nurse help lines, arranging for telephone calls for many patients and in-home nurse visits for some, and providing the services to help get enrollees to medical appointments.
"IBC is the largest Medicare health plan in our region and well respected," said Smith. "We've stayed committed to our members over the years while other insurers have come and gone from our region. In addition to introducing a very competitively priced HMO this year, we continue to offer the long-term stability of the Blue brand which has served this community for more than 70 years."
About Independence Blue Cross
Independence Blue Cross is a leading health insurer in southeastern Pennsylvania. Nationwide, Independence Blue Cross and its affiliates provide coverage to nearly 3.1 million people. For more than 73 years, Independence Blue Cross has offered high-quality health care coverage tailored to meet the changing needs of members, employers, and health care professionals. Independence Blue Cross's HMO and PPO health care plans have consistently received the highest ratings from the National Committee for Quality Assurance. Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. More information about Independence Blue Cross is available at www.ibx.com.
SOURCE Independence Blue Cross