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Press Release

Area Seniors Rally to Support Medicare Advantage Health Plans

Members share stories, write letters, and videotape messages to Congress opposing funding cuts

Philadelphia, PA - April 28, 2009 - Area senior and disabled members of Medicare Advantage plans today joined together for a rally to share stories about how they benefit from their health plans and voice their concerns about recently announced federal funding cuts, which are expected to result in higher plan premiums.

Invited members from local Medicare Advantage plans, including Independence Blue Cross, learned about legislative activity in Washington, DC, and wrote letters and videotaped messages to their elected officials to tell them how vital they believe these plans are for area seniors. The issue is particularly important to members who may have to drop their current coverage if rates increase, and return to a traditional Medicare plan, which has higher out-of-pocket costs and fewer benefits like comprehensive wellness and disease management programs.

Held at Penns Landing Caterers on Columbus Boulevard in Philadelphia, the meeting is hosted by the Coalition for Medicare Choices, a national advocacy group of more than 810,000 Americans with Medicare Advantage health coverage. Similar meetings are being held in other cities throughout the country.

“I really appreciate the coverage I have with my Keystone 65 Medicare Advantage plan,” said Michael DiRenzo of Philadelphia. “I have wonderful care and great doctors with this plan. It has also saved me from high out-of-pocket costs when I recently had a hernia operation.”

Medicare Advantage plans offer a different approach to health care coverage than beneficiaries experience under fee-for-service Medicare. Instead of focusing almost exclusively on treating beneficiaries when they are sick, these plans place a strong emphasis on preventive health care services that help keep beneficiaries healthy.

In Pennsylvania, nearly 38 percent of Medicare beneficiaries – 840,000 seniors and the disabled – are covered by Medicare Advantage plans. Independence Blue Cross, southeastern Pennsylvania's largest Medicare plan, covers 140,000 people.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid, which proposed the funding cuts, have reported that Medicare Advantage enrollees are saving an average of nearly $90 per month through improved benefits and lower out-of-pocket costs compared to what they would pay in the Medicare fee-for-service program. Additionally, according to a recent independent survey by Ayres, McHenry & Associates and the Feldman Group, 90 percent of beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans are satisfied with their coverage overall.

“We're deeply concerned about the impact funding cuts will have through increases in premiums and costs for services both locally and nationally on some of the most vulnerable people in our population," said Steve Fera, vice president for Government Programs at Independence Blue Cross. “We're pleased to see so many members come out today to voice their support for their plans and to do what they can to protect their valued benefits. We're committed to continuing to make quality health care affordable for our Medicare members and to providing them with information and resources to help them make the best decision they can about their health coverage.”

About Independence Blue Cross

Independence Blue Cross is a leading health insurer in southeastern Pennsylvania. IBC and its affiliates provide coverage to nearly 3.4 million people. For more than 70 years, Independence Blue Cross has offered high-quality health care coverage tailored to meet the changing needs of members, employers, and health care professionals. Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans.

About the Coalition for Medicare Choices

The Coalition for Medicare Choices is a rapidly growing organization of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries. More than 810,000 Americans in all 50 states have joined the Coalition to protect the benefits they receive through their Medicare Advantage plans. For more information, please visit www.medicarechoices.org/.

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