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Program assists Medicare beneficiaries

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Navigating the health care system can be complicated and confusing. Trying to save money while staying healthy can be equally daunting. But a new program offered to Medicare Advantage Plan members through Vibra Health Plan aims to help seniors get to doctor's appointments, pay for prescription drugs, and reduce their worry about other health care and day-to-day needs.

Starting this year Vibra’s Medicare Advantage Plan has been offering members what it calls its “Member Advocate” program.

“People generally don’t know what benefits they have available to them,” said Terri-Lee Christiana, the program’s lead member advocate. “Our program helps members maximize their services.”

The process starts with a health assessment. Member advocates call each member to ask a series of questions. Unlike a typical mail-in health assessment, which gets a response rate of between 10 percent and 15 percent, according to Christiana, Vibra’s phone assessment had a 60 percent response rate, with only 1 percent of members reached opting out of the member advocacy program.

Michael Fiaschetti, former president and CEO of Vibra Health Plan, came up with the idea for the advocacy program while helping a close relative try to navigate the health care system.

Vibra Health Plan was founded in 2015 and is based in Lower Paxton Township, Dauphin County. The company has 62 employees and serves Medicare beneficiaries in 17 Pennsylvania counties in Central Pennsylvania, as well as the Lehigh Valley and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.

The health assessment identified various barriers to health care and healthy living, including transportation to a health care provider, paying for medication, having access to food and shelter, and taking care of an aging loved one.

Member advocates then developed a database housing information about where to find help in each of the 17 counties covered by Vibra.

Member advocates have helped members find outside programs and resources to cover drug costs, paid for durable medical goods like wheel chairs, and even helped with a car payment when a member was unable to work.

“Some don’t need much help. It can be as little or as much help as they want,” Christiana said. “We give them everything they need to stay healthy.”

In addition to the member advocacy program, Vibra Health Plan’s Medicare Advantage Plan provides other benefits to seniors including an option with zero premiums; low prescription drug co-pays, including some no-cost generic prescriptions; vision benefits; the option for supplemental dental through Delta Dental, which acan be difficult to find for Medicare; and there are no maximum out of pocket limits, unlike with Medicare Parts A and B, said Craig Hayden, the plan’s chief marketing executive and vice president.

As reported in January, Capital BlueCross is in the process of acquiring majority interest in Vibra Health Plan Holdings, which owns Vibra Health Plan.

Tim Guarneschelli, Vibra’s executive vice president and general counsel, said the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance will decide to approve or deny the acquisition sometime mid to late second quarter.

The company will remain separate and independent, but will benefit from the financial and personnel resources of Capital BlueCross, Guarneschelli said, adding that the member advocacy program and other benefits of Vibra’s Medicare Advantage Plan are expected to continue after the acquisition.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@cpbj.com

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