News Release - Choosing a Medicare HMO - A Guide for Older Pennsylvanians


Contact: Joe Martin, Communications Director
717-232-6787 or

Troy Thompson, Acting Press Secretary
Pennsylvania Department of Aging


Harrisburg, PA - November 5, 2001 - More than half a million Pennsylvania senior citizens enrolled in Medicare HMOs in 2001. Now, older Pennsylvanians can go to the Internet to compare information about these managed care plans by accessing a new government report, jointly issued by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council and the Pennsylvania Department of Aging.

Choosing a Medicare HMO - A Guide for Older Pennsylvanians is being issued in three regional versions that examine HMOs in the state. The report is immediately available at the PHC4 Web address: and at the Department of Aging Web address:

"This report has been produced in response to concerns expressed by Members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly about senior citizens and their understanding of HMOs," stated Marc P. Volavka, Executive Director of PHC4. "We have accelerated the public release of the report to give older Pennsylvanians access to crucial data in a timely fashion." A printed version of the report will also be available to the public shortly.

"It is important that we provide older Pennsylvanians with current information that outlines the Medicare HMO coverage changes that are taking place, and the choices that are available," said Department of Aging Secretary Richard Browdie. "This new report, along with other services available through the Department of Aging, such as the APPRISE program where seniors can call to speak to a counselor, will enable seniors to make a more informed decision when choosing which plan of coverage is right for them."

Beginning this year, enrollees must choose an HMO during the annual enrollment period, which for most HMOS is November and December of 2001. Once that selection is made, a person can change plans only one time during 2002, and that change must take place during the first six months of the year. The report notes that each year, HMOs decide whether to offer policies to Medicare beneficiaries or not. Some HMOs may offer coverage in some counties, or may stop participating in the Medicare HMO program altogether.

Medicare requires that a person be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B before enrolling in a Medicare HMO. The report advises seniors to check with the HMO to see if it is still accepting new members. Then, if you wish to join an HMO, enroll as soon as possible.

"The Legislature has suggested that this is a very important topic for older Pennsylvanians this year," said Mr. Volavka. "The choice seniors make will be more critical than ever, since some companies have decided to pull their HMO offerings out of the marketplace." He added that the immediate availability of the report on the PHC4 and Department of Aging websites meets another objective for both agencies: accurate delivery of timely information. "Given the short deadline, we want to deliver the information as quickly as possible," he said, "and we encourage all persons to go to our website and look at the data and information there."

The information in the report includes for each HMO, a contact phone number and various measures offered by the federal government to help HMO members evaluate plans. The measures include: member satisfaction, percent of members seen by a health care provider in the past year, and various disease treatment measures. There are also comparisons of costs and benefits of Medicare HMOs. The comparisons across HMO costs and benefits are for calendar year 2002.

To reach an APPRISE counselor, or for more information on your Medicare Insurance options, call 1-800-783-7067, or contact your local Area Agency on Aging.