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Medicare market players unveil plans

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The insurers that participate in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Medicare Advantage program are trying to generate their own “fall season” fever.

The Medicare Advantage program gives private insurers a chance to sell commercial alternatives to the traditional Medicare plan. The 2013 Medicare Advantage open-enrollment season is set to run from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.

Units of Humana (NYSE:HUM), UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH) and other carriers have been interrupting the television and Web campaign ad stream with videos that show older people living happier, more confident lives because of their Medicare Advantage coverage.

Many carriers started to roll out Medicare Advantage plan product announcements today.

Humana and HealthSpring, a unit of Cigna (NYSE:CI), are adding both Medicare Advantage health plans and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans in many U.S. markets.

Humana, HealthSpring and UnitedHealth are some of the big players adding new Medicare Advantage health plans.

Regional carriers announcing expansion of Medicare health plan programs, Medicare drug plan programs or both included Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, SCAN Health Plan Arizona and SelectHealth.

Some insurers have been promoting their use of relatively narrow, low-cost provider networks as a selling point, and others have been promoting their use of unusually active efforts to manage and coordinate patient care as a virtue.

UnitedHealth’s UnitedHealthcare unit said a “new preferred pharmacy network” will “deliver more savings.”

Use of the relatively narrow pharmacy network will help UnitedHealthcare to hold the monthly premium for the plan to $15, the company said.

Humana said Medicare Part D enrollees who stick with its preferred pharmacy network can hold co-payments for many generic drugs to $1 for prescriptions filled in person and to $0 for prescriptions filled through a mail-order pharmacy.

HealthSpring is telling consumers that its “coordinated team approach focuses on prevention and delivering [a] more personalized health care experience.”

HealthSpring’s “proven physician engagement approach to health care involves working closely with doctors to monitor and analyze patient data,” Herb Fritch, HealthSpring’s president, said in a statement. “This enables the team to stay ahead of illness and proactively meet each person’s health care needs.”

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