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Memorial to require Medicare patients to enroll in Advantage plan by 2020

Yakima Herald-Republic - 10/9/2018

Oct. 08--YAKIMA, Wash. -- Virginia Mason Memorial told primary care patients covered by Medicare late last week that starting in 2020 it will limit services to those covered by Medicare Advantage insurance.

In the letter, Memorial CEO Russ Myers wrote that the hospital decided to make the change because the insurance plan would provide benefits that would allow providers to better care for Medicare patients.

This move would also allow Memorial primary care providers "to serve the greatest number of Medicare patients possible, while maintaining a sustainable clinic practice," the letter said.

A Memorial spokesman said Monday the hospital was not immediately able to comment further on the change.

Medicare Advantage differs from what is known as the original Medicare plan as it sold and administrated by private insurance companies, rather than the federal government. More patients have opted to switch to Medicare Advantage because it offers additional benefits, such as prescription coverage. Under original Medicare coverage, patients have pay for a separate prescription plan.

Patients have until Jan. 1, 2020, to make the switch, according to the letter. Those who want to switch sooner than later can do so when open enrollment for Medicare starts Oct. 15. The enrollment period continues through Dec. 7. Any changes go into effect Jan. 1. In the letter, the hospital referred questions regarding choosing a Medicare plan to Health Alliance, a Illinois-based private insurer that offers the original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans.

Those who opt not to switch will have to find a doctor outside of Memorial's provider network that accepts Medicare. In the letter, Myers wrote that Memorial can assist in a transfer to another primary care provider.

509-759-7851

maihoang@yakimaherald.com

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