Medicare co-pays added to some IBX plans

    Almost 80,000 people in the area will pay more for services like chemotherapy, radiation and immunosuppressive drugs if they need them next year.

    Independence Blue Cross, the region’s largest insurer, will start charging its Medicare Advantage members in the area a 20 percent co-insurance for Part B drugs next year. Those are drugs usually injected or infused at doctors’ offices. They are also adding a $25 co-pay for radiation and dialysis. In the past there were no out-of-pocket costs for these services.

    Ruth Stoolman, of Independence Blue Cross, said the company avoided charging the fees for as long as possible, but with rising medical costs they are necessary for 2011.

    “It’s an ongoing challenge to balance the federal funding, which is not rising, against medical costs which continue to go up every year,” Stoolman said.

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    Joanne Burke is the coordinator of an Albert Einstein Medical Center program that offers free health insurance counseling to older adults.

    “With [Independence Blue Cross] including the prescription drugs in, it is not affordable to many of our beneficiaries in our area,” Burke said.

    She said the plan’s high premiums are driving a lot of her clients to Bravo, a competing Medicare Advantage offering that will  be widely accepted at Philadelphia hospitals and doctors’ offices for the first time next year.

    The new co-pays are comparable to what people with regular Medicare and other area Medicare Advantage plans paid this year.

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