Medicare Meltdown

Gila County seniors stranded by HMO bailout

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In early July 2000, the area's senior HMO members were dealt two blows in less than a week.

PacifiCare of Arizona, the state's largest provider of Medicare HMO coverage, announced that it would terminate Medicare coverage in Gila and south Pinal counties six days after another health maintenance organization, Intergroup of Arizona, announced that it was doing the same thing.

PacifiCare officials said the decision was prompted by skyrocketing drug costs and cutbacks in federal Medicare payments, which HMOs across the country say are causing big financial losses.

Intergroup cited the same reasons when it announced the end of its local Medicare-Plus Choice plan, which provided prescription drug coverage and other health benefits to seniors in Gila, Cochise and south Pinal counties.

Both HMO plans ended in the Rim country Jan. 1, 2001.

Intergroup's cutback affected 2,600 seniors in Gila County and 7,800 seniors throughout the three counties. PacifiCare's HMO had 195 senior members in Gila County and about 4,800 in South Pinal County.

Individual and employer-group members of PacifiCare's HMO, as well as its seniors in Maricopa and Pima Counties, weren't affected. Nor were Intergroup's 52,000 senior members in Maricopa, Pima and Santa Cruz counties, or in the Pinal County city of Apache Junction.

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