NU Online News Service, Jan. 13, 2005, 5:22 p.m. EST

Blue Cross of California, Newbury Park, Calif., is reaching out to older California residents who are leery of provider networks.[@@]

California Blue, a unit of Anthem Inc., Indianapolis, is introducing the SmartValue plan, a Medicare Advantage private-fee-for-service plan.

California Blue has set up the plan by participating in the same Medicare program that opens Medicare to private health maintenance organizations and private preferred provider organizations.

But the new plan, which is available in Fresno, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Yolo counties, allows participants to see any doctor who will accept Medicare program rates.

The cost of the program is $50 per month per member in Santa Barbara County and $14 per month in the other counties.