Highmark, Capital Blue Cross offer new products for Medicare Advantage shopping period 

Ioannis Pashakis//October 27, 2021

Highmark, Capital Blue Cross offer new products for Medicare Advantage shopping period 

Ioannis Pashakis//October 27, 2021

Area insurers have rolled out their Medicare Advantage (MA) plans for 2022, boasting a wide range of offerings for a growing base of Medicare beneficiaries seeking new options in the space. 

This month, Capital Blue Cross and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield both launched products for the MA shopping period between Oct. 18 and Dec. 7.  

MA plans, also known as Part C coverage, are offered by Medicare-approved private companies and are generally split into Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) and Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans. 

Member feedback from last year’s cycle showed that Medicare beneficiaries are interested in more flexible over-the-counter benefits as well as all-in-one plans offering supplemental benefits such as flexible debit cards for over-the-counter supplies, said Mike Londre, director of marketing for government programs at Harrisburg-based Capital Blue Cross. 

“We are always listening to our members and the communities we serve to identify ways to enhance and improve our products to best serve them and help improve their health and well-being,” said Londre. “Member service expectations also have increased, and we continue to meet those expectations. Many Medicare beneficiaries prefer a local, community-focused health plan like Capital Blue Cross headquartered near them and with local member services.” 

For Pittsburg-based Highmark, this year’s MA rollout was themed around variety, something that the insurer heard loud and clear from its beneficiaries this year. 

“People wanted more options,” said Ellen Galardy, senior vice president of consumer market strategy and senior products for Highmark. “I wonder if they wanted to feel like they were back in the driver seat after COVID took so much choice from us.” 

Highmark’s 2022 MA products in the Midstate include $0 premium Community Blue Medicare HMO plans with $0 specialist copays, and a $0 premium Community Blue Medicare PPO Signature plan with a $22 Part B premium buy-back. 

The Part B buy-back, first piloted in Lancaster for the past two years, is now being expanded to Dauphin, York and Adams counties. Through the plan, beneficiaries are refunded part of what they pay for the product, which equates to $22 a month. 

“We found two primary audiences for the plan. Someone who explored zero-dollar options in the past and is looking for a plan that balances their monthly income budget,” said Galardy. “The other group are first turning Medicare eligible; your retirees looking to transition into a plan.” 

Highmark has also seen the importance of expanding its plans to services that don’t normally fit as a Medicare plan, such as its “pop-up house” benefit, given to Freedom Blue standard and deluxe plan members. The plan gives beneficiaries a certain number of hours for non-medical care at home. 

Both Highmark and Capital Blue Cross expanded options for beneficiaries with diabetes. Highmark  moved its diabetic testing supplies, such as test strips, to its zero-dollar plans and is now offering Onduo, a diabetes management program to beneficiaries on all plans. Capital Blue Cross’ BlueJourney MA products now include a Part D insulin saver program with monthly supply copays as low as $5. 

Capital Blue Cross’ plans for 2022 include a $0 premium HMO, a $0 premium PPO and a $19 premium PPO. The insurers’ new products for 2022 are expected to enhance quality of care, reduce costs and provide greater access to doctors and hospitals through a new partnership with WellSpan Health. 

Capital Blue Cross announced in September that it would be collaborating with the York-based hospital system to increase access for beneficiaries in Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties. 

“Capital Blue Cross has built a trusted reputation in part by offering our members access to high-quality healthcare they know and feel comfortable with,” said Capital Blue Cross President and CEO Todd Shamash. “We are proud to partner with WellSpan in this unique manner. WellSpan is a natural fit with our member-focused approach to Medicare coverage – providing quality, affordable care coupled with peace of mind and friendly, local service.”