NEWS

Blue boxes mailed to 62K Blue Cross Medicare Advantage members

By JOHN HOWELL
Posted 11/17/21

By JOHN HOWELL There was no mistaking the origin of the boxes delivered Saturday afternoon by the U.S. Postal Service. The size of large shoeboxes, the boxes are blue and clearly marked Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island. The contents were a

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NEWS

Blue boxes mailed to 62K Blue Cross Medicare Advantage members

Posted

There was no mistaking the origin of the boxes delivered Saturday afternoon by the U.S. Postal Service. The size of large shoeboxes, the boxes are blue and clearly marked Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island.

The contents were a welcome surprise to many who had no idea they would were coming. The largest of the more than dozen items is a first aid kit ideal to keep in a car or kitchen cabinet. The boxes also contain a box of masks, hand sanitizer, 100 bandages, toothbrush, toothpaste, vitamins, digital thermometer and lip balm along with a flyer.

In part it reads, “Take care with this care package from the healthcare company you know and trust. Having access to affordable and high-quality healthcare is so important to your peace of mind. Getting free stuff feels pretty good, too.”

According to BCBSRI spokeswoman Jill Flaxington, the “wellness kits” were just mailed out to all of the company’s Medicare Advantage members (both individual and group) for a total of more than 62,000 Rhode Islanders. Flaxington did not provide a cost for the kit nor how the company would pay for them.

Flaxington said many of the items in the kit can help people keep well during the cold and flu season.

“We want to help ensure older Rhode Islanders have access to these items, as we know many are still very much impacted daily by the pandemic and might not have the access they once did.”

She noted that Blue Cross recently launched another round of our weekly grocery delivery to some Medicare members who told us they were experiencing food security challenges.

“These aren’t the traditional ways people might imagine a health insurer connecting with members, but as a nonprofit healthcare company, we are committed to reinvesting in our members and meeting them where they are,” she said.

The kit was a surprise to the Pilgrim Senior Center staff in Warwick. Patricia Almonte, Warwick senior resource specialist, who is helping seniors navigate Medicare programs, speculates the gifts Blue Cross members who can change insurers during this open enrollment period. She noted that for a long time Blue Cross and United have been the primary insurers providing Medicare advantage plans. Entering the field this year are Aetna, Wellcare and Commonwealth Care.

Almonte said all the companies don’t charge a monthly premium for Advantage Plan members, but from that point on there are multiple coverage variables that can dramatically impact costs based on an individual’s length of stay in a hospital, stay in a skilled nursing facility, out patient coverage, lab services, radiation, doctor visits, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, plus a variety of other things.

Overall, Almonte doesn’t see stark differences between the fine points of the programs offered by insurers and she didn’t anticipate seeing tremendous shifts from Blue Cross. She pointed out that 98 percent of the state’s physicians take Blue Cross and that the company has won the loyalty of members providing transportation, which it added two years ago, and Papa Pals, a program for Blue Chip members where the company will send someone to a member’s home to assist them.

Almonte pointed out seniors should consider variables of coverage particularly if they are going to be out of state. Regardless, Medicare prices are going up.

On Monday, Almonte was notified that monthly premiums for art B medical services provided by Medicare would increase from $148.50 to $170.10 a month after the first of the year.

With many senior centers canceling programs to help elderly choose the best program for them, Almonte has experienced an increase in calls. She and her assistants are now fielding 25 to 30 calls a day.

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