IBC narrows its plan choices for Medicare recipients

    Independence Blue Cross won’t offer two popular Medicare Advantage plans

    The regions largest health insurer is discontinuing two of its health plans used by more than 35,000 Medicare recipients, and some advocacy groups are worried that seniors will have fewer options next year.

    Listen: [audio:090812teplans.mp3]

    The federal government is lowering reimbursement for Medicare Advantage plans nationwide. Those plans offer add-on options, like prescriptions drugs benefits, that are not available in the basic Medicare program.

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    Independence Blue Cross says federal cutbacks make two of its plans unaffordable, so they won’t be renewed next year. Kellie Flanagan is a spokeswoman for the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly.

    Flanagan: What they’re worried about is whether they can have the same doctor, the same specialist, because a lot of people have chronic medical conditions, and also their prescriptions drugs, that’s a really big concern because there are certain drugs that are really expensive.

    IBC is holding information sessions for advocacy groups and phoning seniors to alert them about the change. It’s not clear what alternative plans will be available across the region next year.

    Stephen Fera is a spokesman for Independence Blue Cross.

    Fera: For these two products the funding cuts at 4-1/2 percent, coupled with the increase in medical costs made it unsustainable to continue unfortunately.

    Advocacy groups say they’re already fielding calls from older people who are worried about making the transition to a new plan.

    Flanagan: You know it’s beneficial that they are telling people now so it’s not smacking them in the face in the fall, however when we get phone calls we can’t advise them directly yet on what plan to chose.

    The federal government usually issues a new list of Medicare Advantage plans in October.

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