Senators from rural states are wrestling with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Chicago, over the size of the regions for the new Medicare managed care program.[@@]
The issue came up today at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the Medicare Advantage managed care program and the new Medicare drug benefits program.
In the past, the old Medicare Plus Choice managed care program focused mainly on persuading private carriers to offer Medicare health maintenance organization coverage. The Medicare Advantage program is trying to persuade more private insurers to offer Medicare preferred provider organization coverage.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the ranking Democrat, called in his opening remarks for officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to act promptly to define the broadest possible service regions.
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Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, supported Baucus’s comments.
Rural state senators say establishing the largest possible service regions will help rural residents get coverage at the lowest possible cost.
“The Medicare Advantage Regional Plans will give beneficiaries more coverage choices by requiring plans to serve both urban and rural areas,” Grassley said. “Beneficiaries deserve choices between regular Medicare and other options that can offer them better coordinated care and additional benefits, such as 24-hour consulting nurse services.”
But the Blues have argued in comment letters to the CMS that the program should start with 50 one-state regions.