The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has given HealthMarkets Inc. permission to sell Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans.

HealthMarkets, North Richland Hills, Texas, will start making HealthMarkets Care Assured plans available Jan. 1, 2008, the company says.

The plans will be available in 29 states, HealthMarkets says.

HealthMarkets has hired Nancy Cocozza, an executive who previously worked for Coventry Health Care Inc., Bethesda, Md., to be president of the new Medicare plan operation.

Cocozza was in charge of Coventry’s government programs effort from 2001 to 2006, HealthMarkets says.

HealthMarkets will be issuing the Medicare coverage through its Chesapeake Life Insurance Company subsidiary.