Saturday, January 14, 2006

CIGNA Press Release 1/3/2006

CIGNA HealthCare Members Will Have More Choice and Convenience
MinuteClinic Health Care Centers at Local Retail Outlets Added to Network of Providers
BLOOMFIELD, Conn., Jan. 3, 2006 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Treatment for common ailments is about to get easier for CIGNA HealthCare members. Beginning February 1, 2006, members in select locations who develop routine ailments such as strep throat or pink eye will be able to access care at MinuteClinic health care centers located in convenient retail outlets, including Target, CVS/pharmacy, Bartell Drugs and Cub Foods stores. MinuteClinic health care centers operate today in Indiana, Minnesota, Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Washington. MinuteClinic plans to open new health care centers in several additional states over the next twelve months.
CIGNA HealthCare's relationship with MinuteClinic supports a health care marketplace where consumers can make decisions based on service, price and quality. "Because of today's increasingly busy schedules, members have told us they want flexible hours, convenience, quick and affordable access to a clinician, and more choices in how they handle minor medical conditions," said Dr. Allen Woolf, a pediatrician and national medical executive for CIGNA HealthCare.
MinuteClinic health care centers are open seven days a week with weekday evening hours. No appointment is necessary and patient visits usually take about 15 minutes. With the member's permission, treatment and screening results are shared with the member's primary care physician to help ensure that a member's medical record is kept up-to-date and that any needed follow- up treatment can be developed by the primary care physician. "Members have the added peace of mind of knowing that a record of their care at a MinuteClinic is sent to their primary care physician," added Dr. Woolf.
The ease and convenience of a MinuteClinic is particularly ideal for employees who have traditionally had to take time off from work to see their physician about minor or common ailments. "Having MinuteClinic close by has helped improve productivity and raised employees' satisfaction with their benefit plan," commented Raymond Brusca, vice president of benefits for Black & Decker. "What used to require an employee taking a half day or more off of work is now a 20-minute trip next door." Black & Decker employee James Downing agrees, "I had an upper-respiratory infection and was able to go to MinuteClinic, be checked out by a health care professional, and walk out with the prescription I needed. The flexible hours also mean that I can go after work or on weekends when my doctor's office is closed."
"MinuteClinic health care centers are overseen by physicians and staffed by certified nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Practitioners use nationally established protocols in diagnosing and treating dozens of common health conditions, such as ear or sinus infections," explained Dr. James Woodburn, MinuteClinic Chief Medical Officer. "Beyond quality health care and convenience, our patients and their employers also benefit from knowing the cost of the service upfront. Prices are displayed outside the clinic."
Charges for MinuteClinic visits will be handled the same as primary care physician office visits. Most services at MinuteClinic health care centers are provided for between $49 and $59. Therefore, a member with a 20 percent coinsurance who accesses a service of $49 would pay only $9.80 for a visit, assuming their deductible has been met.
The addition of MinuteClinic health care centers to the CIGNA HealthCare network of providers demonstrates CIGNA HealthCare's commitment to expanding the company's broad suite of consumer-focused products and services, which are designed to help members achieve their personal health goals.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

PacifiCare Press Release 12/26/2005

PacifiCare partners with national retail, grocery and drugstore chains to market Prescription Solutions from PacifiCare's Medicare Part D prescription drug plans
Educational information and access to quality prescription drug insurance available at nearly 11,000 retail outlets nationwide
CYPRESS, Calif. -- Dec. 26, 2005 -- PacifiCare Health Systems Inc. is partnering with six of the nation's largest retail, grocery and drugstore chains and franchises to market its new Prescription Solutions from PacifiCare Medicare Part D prescription drug plans to Medicare-eligible consumers through nearly 11,000 retail outlets nationwide.
PacifiCare's new partnerships include agreements with: Albertsons Inc. (NYSE: ABS); Longs Drug Stores Corp.; Safeway Inc. (NYSE: SWY); Target (NYSE: TGT); Walgreen Co. (NYSE, NASDSAQ: WAG); and Medicine Shoppe International, Inc., a Cardinal Health Company (NYSE: CAH).
Information about the plans, including enrollment kits, free-standing kiosks and sales materials, is now available in PacifiCare?s partners' stores. Those who enroll in any of the three Prescription Solutions from PacifiCare Part D plans will be able to fill their prescriptions at the participating pharmacies or through other pharmacies in PacifiCare?s nationwide network of more than 50,000 outlets or via mail service.
As part of PacifiCare's effort to help Medicare-eligible consumers, caregivers and family members better understand the Medicare Part D benefit, the company is developing educational materials, such as a custom online learning module, designed especially for pharmacists and retail professionals that will help them answer their customers' questions and simplify the Part D enrollment process.
''We feel that the customers and families served by some of the country's most trusted providers of pharmacy services will appreciate the value of our Medicare Part D prescription drug plans,'' said Jacqueline Kosecoff, Ph.D., PacifiCare's executive vice president, Specialty Companies. ''Our goal is to help make choosing and enrolling in a Part D plan easier for America's seniors, and we are confident that our partners will play a key role in providing information and resources that will bring more clarity to Medicare consumers.''
According to Kosecoff, the addition of these well-established and respected national enterprises to PacifiCare's marketing network adds an important direct-to-consumer retail presence that is expected to enhance Prescription Solutions from PacifiCare's national broad distribution platform.
''We have been serving the health and wellness needs of our customers for more than 60 years. The Medicare Part D prescription drug program is a great benefit and we are pleased to be working with PacifiCare to educate our customers on the plans they offer,'' said Bruce Schwallie, executive vice president of Business Development and Managed Care, Longs Drug Stores. ''The drug benefit program offers participants several new options. With options come questions, and Longs is available and accessible to help participants navigate through the benefit.''
''We believe the Medicare Part D prescription drug program is a good benefit, but only if Medicare participants understand how it works and if they pick the best plan for their needs. We're going to help people do that,'' said Dave Fong, Safeway senior vice president of Pharmacy. ''Our pharmacists are ready to answer questions and help make the process easier for Medicare participants.''

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Medica Press Release 1/2/2006

Fitness Guru in Sauk Centre Added to Fit Choices SM by Medica Network Offers Workout Credits for Medica Members
MINNETONKA, Minn. January 2, 2006 — Medica members in the Sauk Centre/Melrose area now have a new opportunity to improve their health and save money. Effective January 1, 2006, Fitness Guru in Sauk Centre has joined Medica’s Fit Choices by Medica network. The program, the first program of its kind in Minnesota, is designed to help members improve their health and save membership and health care dollars. Fit Choices by Medica members get a $20 monthly membership credit just for exercising at a participating health club eight or more days per month. “We are delighted to partner with Fitness Guru,” said Dr. Ted Loftness, M.D., Medica Vice President of Regional Health Services. “This is an important addition to the Fit Choices by Medica program because it provides easy access to our members in the Sauk Centre/Melrose area. Fitness Guru is very supportive of our mission to engage our members in greater amounts of physical activity and fitness programs.”“We’re thrilled with the partnership and the opportunity this program provides our members to increase their level of fitness and improve their health. The program has proven to be a great motivator to get people started on a fitness routine and keep them active,” said Dave Rosenberg, Owner, Fitness Guru.Studies show that helping people stay healthy not only saves lives, it controls health care costs. An estimated 70 percent of all illnesses are due to lifestyle-related causes such as obesity and physical inactivity, and one-half of all medical costs are attributable to illnesses that could be prevented. Fit Choices by Medica is now a standard component of Medica’s offerings to fully insured employers and is being offered as an option for self-insured groups.Eligible Medica members also have access to an online portion of Fit Choices by Medica. My ePHIT, (Personal Health Improvement Training), is a revolutionary online resource that offers customized health improvement programs, advice, encouragement and rewards for participants. This interactive health improvement program also includes personalized coaching and access to nutritional experts. Members can track their progress and earn reward points, which can be redeemed for health-related merchandise and gift certificates. Family PHIT, meanwhile, includes a children’s and teen component -- Kid Phit and Teen Phit -- to provide age specific educational materials, a special weekly family night program, and games and prizes to help the entire family focus on improving their health. About Medica- Medica is Minnesota’s largest HMO, largest PPO and leading non-profit and independent provider of health plans. Medica has 1.2 million members and 24,000 providers in a regional health care network service area that includes 98 percent of Minnesotans and a growing number of adjoining counties in Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota. Medica also offers national network coverage to employers who also have employees outside the Medica regional network.Medica has the highest accreditation status, Excellent, from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA®) for its Minnesota and North Dakota Medicaid HMO plans and commercial health plans. Medica’s vision is to become the community’s health plan of choice, trusted for its integrity, respected for its service, and admired for its commitment to innovation and efficiency.

Monday, January 09, 2006

California HealthCare Foundation Press Release 12/1/2005

Increase in Health Insurance Premiums Slows to 8.2 Percent in California 2005 rise is still more than twice the rate of inflation December 01, 2005 Health insurance premiums increased by 8.2 percent in California in 2005, the first time in four years increases were held to single digits, according to results from the 2005 California Employer Health Benefits Survey released today by the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF). However, the rise still outstripped the overall 3.9 percent statewide inflation rate.
Conducted by The Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC), the annual survey highlights statistics and trends specific to California and provides comparisons between the state and the nation. The survey is an offshoot of a national employer study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust.
While the percentage of employers offering coverage has declined nationwide to 60 percent, a nine-point drop since 2000, the percentage of California employers providing health insurance (67 percent) remains relatively unchanged. As in previous surveys, firms cite the high cost of coverage as the primary reason they did not offer health benefits.
Looking to offset the cost of premiums, 38 percent of California's large employers (those with 200 or more workers) report they are very likely to increase the amount employees pay for health insurance in 2006. Thirty-two percent say they are somewhat likely to ask employees to pay more for coverage.
On average, California workers paid $41 per month for single coverage in 2005 and $240 for family coverage. Workers in lower-wage firms, by contrast, paid an average of $54 per month for single coverage and $302 for family coverage.
According to the survey, HMOs remain the least costly type of health plan in the state—on average more than one-third less expensive than PPO plans for single coverage. But while HMOs in California cost less than the national average, PPOs are more expensive.
"The decline in the pace of health care premium increases in California is encouraging," said Jill Yegian, Ph.D., director of the health insurance program at CHCF. "But premiums still increased twice as fast as inflation, offsetting the effect of wage increases and leaving too many Californians unable to afford coverage." "The results show that lower-wage workers are faring the worst in the employer-based health insurance system," said Jon Gabel, vice president of The Center for Studying Health System Change. "Their employers are far less likely to offer health benefits, and when they do, workers have to pay more for coverage."
Other survey findings include:
The average monthly premium across all plans in California is $321 for single coverage ($3,852 per year) and $858 for family coverage ($10,296 per year).
Copayments for office visits increased in HMO plans in 2005. The percentage of California workers with a $20 copayment increased from 14 percent in 2004 to 22 percent in 2005.
Only 35 percent of the state's lower-wage firms offer health benefits compared to 72 percent of higher-wage firms.
Twenty percent of California employers offered a high-deductible health plan in 2005.