Northwest NEWS

November 16, 1998

Editorial

Help for those affected by HMO withdrawals

   from Linda A. Ruiz,
   Seattle Health Care Financing Administration

  
   Recently, nearly 27,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Washington received notice that their HMO will not continue in the Medicare program after Dec. 31, 1998. This means they will have to change the way they currently receive their Medicare benefits. We understand that these changes can be disruptive and we are working to provide more choices to beneficiaries in the future. To ease the transition, the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) is committed to making sure beneficiaries have reliable, unbiased information about their choices, rights and protections.
  
   Beneficiaries can be assured that they will continue to have health insurance through Medicare, whether through original fee-for-service Medicare or through Medicare managed care. People whose HMOs are not continuing should stay with their plan through Dec. 31st if they wish to return to original Medicare and purchase a Medigap supplemental insurance policy. Low income beneficiaries may qualify for help with Medicare premiums, deductibles and coinsurance costs through their local Department of Social and Health Services office.
  
   There are several resources available to help beneficiaries though this transition. Soon, Mediare enrollees will receive the "Medicare & You" handbook, with important information about the Medicare program. Because of printing deadlines, some of the information needs to be updated. To get updated information about HMO decisions to leave Medicare or other health plan options, call our toll-free 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) line between 8 a.m. and 4:30 pm. Monday-Friday or check out our new Internet web site www.Medicare.gov. For individual insurance counseling, call the Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA), a free public service sponsored by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, at 1-800-397-4422.
  
   The HCFA and SHIBA are there to help beneficiaries through this time of transition with the information and counseling necessary to make informed decisions.