Archive for Sunday, October 20, 2002

Be aware of Medicare + Choice plan changes

October 20, 2002


I've just received notice that my Medicare HMO will no longer be serving policies in Kansas. I've read the letter several times, but I am not sure where this leaves me and what my options are now.

For 2003, 33 Medicare + Choice plans withdrew or reduced their service areas affecting 198,315 beneficiaries. The reasons for this exit from the health coverage market are complex, and I won't try to make explanations.

Here's the information from "FirstGov for Seniors," the government's Web site. The address is if you want to check it out yourself.

Medicare + Choice organizations had to notify clients of their intention to withdraw for the coming year by Oct. 2, 2002. They were required to send plan members an information package explaining the options. You should have received this.

Copy this letter (dated Oct. 2). You will need it to apply for a Medigap policy later.

Your plan will remain in effect until Dec. 31, 2002, unless you choose to unenroll before that date. After Dec. 31, you will be automatically unenrolled and returned to the original Medicare coverage unless you make other arrangements.

If you choose to return to the original Medicare Program, you may want to buy supplemental insurance (a Medigap policy) before you unenroll from the Medicare + Choice Plan.

You must apply for a Medicap policy within 63 days of the date on which coverage of the nonrenewing Medicare + Choice plan ends.

If you return to Original Medicare, you will probably be able to continue with many of the doctors you saw in your Medicare + Choice Organization. To see if a physician participates in Original Medicare, look at the Participating Physician director at

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will be sending a postcard to every nonrenewal affected by a Medicare HMO provider. Information on the postcard will let individuals know the date, time and place of public meetings being set up by the centers to brief those currently affected by the changes. At this time, the changes are affecting residents of Johnson, Wyandotte, Miami and Leavenworth counties in Kansas.

To explore your various health-care options, one of the best sources of information is the Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas (SHICK) Program administered by the Kansas Insurance Department. Call (800) 860-5260 to find a volunteer counselor for this free program in your area.

Current information about other Medicare + Choice plans available in a local area is available at (800) MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), and on the Web site.

Again, my best advice is to get in touch with a SHICK volunteer in your area. They are trained to give unbiased advice not to sell products and will know the latest information from your area. Good luck.

If you have questions or comments for "Sense for Seniors," write to Betty Gibb, Kansas Senior Press Service, 11875 S. Sunset, Suite 200, Olathe 66061. You can also call (913) 477-8103 or send e-mail to

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