Blue Cross La. dropping drug plan for seniors

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is dropping its RxBlue prescription drug plans in 2014, which means 13,000 seniors enrolled in the Blue plans will have to find new Medicare Part D coverage.

There are about 333,000 people with Part D coverage in Louisiana, according to the state Department of Insurance.

Blue Cross notified RxBlue members by letter they will need to join another Medicare drug plan in 2014. Members can join a new plan anytime between Oct. 15 and Feb. 28.

“However, if you don’t join a new Medicare drug plan by December 31, you won’t have drug coverage starting January 1, 2014,” the letter says.

The letter provides sources for prescription drug plans, such as medicare.gov.

And Blue Cross’s website, www.bcbsla.com, provides a link to a list of the other Medicare drug plans available in Louisiana as of Oct. 1.

Anyone who needs help finding a new plan also can contact the state Insurance Department’s Senior Health Insurance Information Program at (800) 259-5300 for free information.

Neither the Blue Cross letter nor the company’s website explain why it is dropping the RxBlue prescription plans.

Blue Cross spokesman John Maginnis said Monday the company didn’t have enough resources to meet the needs of RxBlue members and the people expected to join through the health insurance marketplace created by the federal Affordable Care Act.

Blue Cross is one of four companies offering plans through the health insurance marketplace, and the only one offering plans in all coverage levels throughout the state.

The company said it chose to end RxBlue after evaluating its existing plans, networks and benefits, along with the coming changes with implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Shelby W. Brown, 85, of Baton Rouge, said Blue Cross’s decision was disappointing.

“We had no problems with Blue Cross, and so I was most upset …. If I have to go out and get a drug plan with another major company, such as Humana or People’s Health or whoever, it means a lot of extra work,” Brown said.

“Because then I have to decide if I want to change the hospital and doctor plan.”

Brown said he called Humana when he got the Blue Cross letter around two weeks ago, and a representative was supposed to stop by last week. The representative was so busy that he had to reschedule.

Tricia Neuman, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said the number of Medicare prescription drug plans available is increasing nationwide and in Louisiana.

In 2013, there were 30 Part D plans offered in Louisiana. In 2014, there will be 33, she said.

The average premium for those plans is expected to drop by 6 percent, the largest percentage decrease in the country.

Figures from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that nationwide, 1,169 Medicare prescription drug plans will be available in 2014, an increase of 13 percent over 2013.

“Even if a plan pulls out, people in Louisiana will have dozens of other plans to choose from,” Neuman said.

Humana spokesman Mitch Lubitz said the company could not comment on Blue Cross’s reasons for dropping Part D coverage.

“The Medicare prescription drug program has been a good growth business for Humana’s Retail Segment in Louisiana and elsewhere,” Lubitz said.

Humana will offer a host of Medicare prescription drug plans during the 2014 enrollment period, which runs through Dec. 7.

Those plans include the Humana Wal-Mart Rx Plan, which has the lowest monthly premium in the country at $12.60, Lubitz said.

The plan carries no deductible for most generic drugs and in-store copays are as low as $1 at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club pharmacies.