DCBS Media Release
November 5, 1998
Medicare mailing shouldn't alarm Oregon seniors
Oregon Medicare beneficiaries shouldn't be alarmed when they receive a new booklet, "Medicare & You," from the federal government in the next few days.
Medicare is a health insurance program for people 65 years of age and older, certain younger people with disabilities, and people with end-stage renal disease. The Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), which manages the Medicare program, is sending the booklet to about 500,000 beneficiaries in Oregon.
"Medicare beneficiaries often worry when they believe their benefits might be changed," said Nancy Ellison, deputy state insurance commissioner. "But the booklet just provides an overview of Medicare, describes some enhanced preventive benefits, and explains new types of health plans available in some parts of the country."
Starting in January 1999, Medicare beneficiaries in some areas will be able to choose from a broader array of health plans, in addition to the original fee-for-service Medicare plan and the managed care plans that have been offered in recent years. The expanded options, known as Medicare+Choice, were created as part of the federal Balanced Budget Act of 1997.
Ellison emphasized that most Oregon beneficiaries who wish to continue their current Medicare plan don't need to re-enroll or take other action. "If you like your current plan, you don't have to do anything." she said.
The only exception is the Senior Security managed care plans offered by QualMed (formerly PACC) in Portland and the surrounding areas, which will be discontinued Dec. 31, 1998. Members of those plans should have received information from QualMed about their choices for replacement coverage.
So far, only one new Oregon health plan has applied to participate in Medicare+Choice, in addition to existing managed care plans. Clear Choice Health Plans expects to get final HCFA approval of its Medicare contract this week. Subject to HCFA approval, Clear Choice will begin offering a Medicare managed care plan in Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Harney, Jefferson, Lake and Wheeler counties in January of 1999.
The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 also enhanced several preventive benefits for all Medicare beneficiaries, regardless of which health plan they choose. For example, all women on Medicare age 40 and over will be covered for an annual screening mammogram. Other preventive benefits are explained in the "Medicare & You" booklet.
Beneficiaries who are currently enrolled in managed care plans may contact their plan directly for additional information.
Medicare+Choice information also is available from: