NU Online News Service, Sept. 24, 11:05 a.m. – PacifiCare of Oregon, Lake Oswego, Ore., has announced premium and benefits changes for its 35,000 Secure Horizons Medicare+Choice health plan members in 2002.

Pacificare is reducing Medicare HMO service because of persistent Medicare medical cost inflation; a 2% cap on increases in federal Medicare reimbursement; and limits on the supplemental premiums Pacificare can pass on to members who would like to keep their coverage, the company says.

PacifiCare will continue to operate Medicare HMO programs with 1 million members, but it will be reducing benefits and increasing the supplemental premiums for those members, the company says.

The company said the financial relief it received through the Benefits Improvement and Protection Act has allowed it to either maintain or reduce member premiums throughout its service area.

The company also said it would no longer provide its Secure Horizons Medicare+Choice health plan in Columbia County, resulting in 500 members (or roughly 1% of total membership) losing access to their health plan.

Changes for 2002 will vary from county to county in the state.

While most Oregon Medicare+Choice health plans will see little adverse changes to their health plans, the situation around the nation is more severe, the company says. Nationally, more than 1.4 million Americans enrolled in a Medicare HMO have lost access to their plan since 1998, Pacificare says.