NU Online News Service, Dec. 4, 9:29 a.m. – Health Net Inc., Woodland Hills, Calif., says its California unit is seeking approval to make modest improvements in 2003 Medicare health maintenance organization benefits for participants in Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties.

Managed care companies have been announcing plans for years to cut back Medicare HMO benefits because of anger over low federal reimbursement rates.

Now, in Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties, Health Net wants to reduce premium payments to $60 a month, remove the annual maximum on generic prescriptions, and remove the daily co-payment for days 21 to 100 in a skilled nursing facility.

In Los Angeles, Kern and Orange counties, Health Net wants to reduce co-payments for primary care physician, specialist and urgent care visits to $10.

In Los Angeles County, Health Net also wants to add brand-name prescription drug coverage and eliminate the co-payment for outpatient surgery.