NU Online News Service, Jan. 29, 2004, 11:25 a.m. EST – Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Newark, N.J., is lowering rates for some elderly customers.[@@]

The nonprofit health insurer says it will be reducing premiums for 56,011 older New Jersey residents enrolled in its Horizon Medicare health maintenance organization plans starting March 31.

The company will eliminate the monthly premium for its Horizon Medicare Blue Value plan. Members of the plan now pay $51.97 per month for Blue Value coverage. Horizon also will be adding prescription drug and vision care benefits to the Blue Value package.

Monthly premiums will fall to about $25, from $72.24, for the Horizon Medicare Blue plan, and monthly premiums will fall to about $55, from $104.78 per month, for the Horizon Medicare Blue Plus plan.

Horizon says it can afford the changes because of increased funding supplied by the recently signed Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003.