Friday, May 05, 2006

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Missouri to do Business as Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield

St. Louis, MO. (April 25, 2006) –Starting May 1, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Missouri (BCBSMo) will do business as Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, taking on a trusted brand name that symbolizes quality for millions of consumers across the country.


Blue Cross Blue Shield of Missouri products and services will now be offered under the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield brand. The Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield brand, used by 11 health plans across the country, is a well-recognized health benefits brand known for quality, affordable health care and has a strong reputation in the market as a trusted choice for consumers.


The new brand name in Missouri will continue to embody the consistency, strength, security and stability of the Blue Cross Blue Shield name.


While the name and logo will be different, members will receive the same superior customer service they are accustomed to along with more e-commerce capabilities and enhanced product offerings. “Although we will have a new name, we will be the same Missouri health plan that members have depended on for years for quality products and services,” said Stuart K. Campbell, president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Missouri. “Members will see little change in their experiences with us.” Membership cards, explanation of benefits, mailings and provider directories will continue to have the same information, brands and logos.


As new products are introduced and new members are enrolled, materials will include the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield brand. As Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the health plan will continue to offer products and services that will bring employers and consumers more health insurance options and added-value services.


Offerings will continue to help consumers choose the right health plans, maintain health, get the right quality care when they need it and control their health care costs. “As Anthem, we will be able to tap into extensive national capabilities while maintaining our local presence and decision making,” said Campbell. “Health care is locally delivered and locally consumed, and the Missouri team will continue to make decisions locally for our Missouri customers.”


About Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is the trade name RightCHOICE® Managed Care, Inc. (RIT), Healthy Alliance® Life Insurance Company (HALIC) and HMO Missouri, Inc. use to do business in most of Missouri. RIT and certain affiliates administer non-HMO benefits underwritten by HALIC and HMO benefits are underwritten by HMO Missouri, Inc. RIT and certain affiliates only provide administrative services for self-funded plans and do not underwrite benefits. RIT, HMO Missouri, Inc. and HALIC are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

AHRQ Studies Medicaid Spending on Outpatient Drugs

New AHRQ Study Shows Medicaid Spending on Outpatient Drugs More Than Doubled in Recent Years ... Press Release Date: April 26, 2006

Medicaid spending for outpatient prescription drugs increased by 20 percent per year on average from 1997 to 2002, jumping from $11.6 billion to $23.7 billion during that period, according to a new study by HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The increase reflects a rise in both the number of prescriptions written for Medicaid enrollees—from 301 million in 1997 to 429 million in 2002—and the rapid uptake of newer classes of drugs, which are often more expensive.

The increase also reflected rapidly growing spending on behalf of disabled adults, including low-income persons with serious mental illnesses. Prescriptions for newer classes of drugs included antidepressants, COX-2 inhibitors, proton pump inhibitors and cholesterol-lowering medications. For example, the number of Medicaid enrollees taking antidepressants rose by 50 percent—from 2.5 million enrollees in 1997 to 3.7 million in 2002—which helped fuel a 130 percent rise in Medicaid spending for those drugs during the period.

Antidepressants and all other psychotherapeutic drugs constituted the largest category of drugs prescribed to Medicaid enrollees in 2002, and total spending for all psychotherapeutic drugs rose 127 percent between 1997 and 2002. In addition, annual Medicaid spending on drugs for disabled adults ages 19 to 64 grew 97 percent during the period—from $5.3 billion in 1997 to $10.3 billion in 2002—while drug spending for all Medicaid enrollees 65 and older rose 81 percent, from $3.5 billion to $6.3 billion.

Furthermore, disabled adults accounted for 47 percent of the Medicaid enrollees who were prescribed antidepressants—an increase of 37 percent between 1997 and 2002. The data do not include spending on drugs given to Medicaid patients while hospitalized or those in nursing homes. "This study helps pinpoint the patterns that have been driving significant increases in Medicaid drug spending," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. "These data help identify classes of medications for which more evidence is needed on the comparative effectiveness of new drugs. This comparative evidence has the potential to help State and Federal policymakers identify circumstances where costs could be safely reined in without affecting the quality of medical care for Medicaid enrollees."

Other leading categories of drugs, by overall expenditures, were cardiovascular drugs, including ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, antihypertensive combinations, and diuretics; hormones; respiratory drugs; analgesics; gastrointestinal drugs; and antibiotics. Use and expenditures for all these drugs increased substantially during the period. AHRQ's Jessica S. Banthin, Ph.D., and G. Edward Miller, Ph.D., also used data from the Agency's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and other sources to examine brand-name versus generic drug use during the period.

Overall, generic drugs' share declined only slightly—from roughly 47 percent to 44 percent. But those figures mask more substantial changes for different types of drugs, according to the researchers. For instance, use of generics decreased for about half the drugs studied and increased or stayed about the same for the other half.


For more information, see "Trends in Prescription Drug Expenditures by Medicaid Enrollees," in a special supplement to the May 2006 Medical Care called "Trends in Medical Care Costs, Coverage, Use and Access: Research Findings from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey." This special issue features nine articles focusing on such topics as employment-related health insurance and reduced prescribing of antibiotics to children. For more information, please contact AHRQ Public Affairs: (301) 427-1539 or (301) 427-1865.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Assurant Health Survey: Parents Need to Consider Health Insurance Risks and Options for Kids Graduating From College

Milwaukee, April 18, 2006

National Survey Reveals Parents Need to Be Educated on Health Insurance Risks, Options for their College Grads. Nearly 40 percent mistakenly believe that adult children living at home are still covered under their health plans. New research by College Parents of America and Assurant Health shows parents are concerned about insurance but unaware of affordable options

Graduation day is just around the corner, but it’s the parents of these young students who still need remedial education on whether their health plans cover their children and the options now available for short-term medical insurance. Findings from a recent national survey of college parents revealed that only 23 percent were highly confident that their adult children would immediately find a job after college that provides health insurance. Yet, fewer than one in three were aware that they could buy short-term medical insurance for these young adults for as little as $50 per month. The research was conducted by College Parents of America and Assurant Health.

It reaffirmed the results of a previous Assurant Health survey that showed 40 percent of parents mistakenly believed that adult children (ages 21 -24) living at home were covered under their health insurance plans. “We hope this sends a wake-up call to the tens of thousands of parents who do not realize they may be at great financial risk right after their children graduate,” said James A. Boyle, founder and president of College Parents of America, the only national membership association dedicated to advocating and serving on behalf of current and future college parents.


Some of the survey’s other findings included:

20 percent of parents have no idea when their health insurance will no longer cover their college-age children.

Most believe that short-term health insurance for a healthy young adult costs more than $100/month, when in fact such policies can be obtained for as little as $50/month.

68 percent of the parents were not even aware of the availability of short-term health insurance, which typically offers coverage for periods ranging from one to six months.

“Other studies show that about 40 percent of young adults are uninsured at some time during the year following their graduation,” said David Andrews, Vice President, Product Management, Short Term Medical for Assurant Health. “With college expenses so high, the last thing parents and their children need is to get hit with unexpected medical bills.” According to Assurant Health data, a climbing accident could result in more than $450,000 in medical expenses, while a case of pneumonia can cost $75,000.

One Assurant Health policyholder suffered a spinal cord injury that cost $623,000 to treat, yet paid only $266.40 for six months of short-term coverage.

Assurant Health offered the country’s first Short Term Medical Plan in 1973 and is the leading provider of temporary health insurance. For more information on the company’s other health insurance products and services, please visit www.assuranthealth.com. The survey was conducted online among a nationally representative sample of college parents in March 2006, and its results carry a 95% confidence with a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.

Assurant Health has been in business since 1892. Assurant Health's underwriting companies provide health insurance coverage for more than one million people nationwide. The companies’ primary products include individual medical, small group, short-term and student health insurance products, as well as non-insurance products and consumer-choice products such as Health Savings Accounts and Health Reimbursement Arrangements. With almost 3,000 employees, Assurant Health is headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., and has operations offices in Minnesota, Idaho and Florida, as well as sales offices across the country. Assurant Health is the brand name for products underwritten and issued by one or more of Assurant Health’s underwriting companies – Time Insurance Company, John Alden Life Insurance Company and Union Security Insurance Company. The Assurant Health Web site is www.assuranthealth.com. Assurant Health is part of Assurant, which offers specialized insurance products and related services in North America and selected other markets.

Its five key business units – Assurant Employee Benefits, Assurant Health, Assurant Preneed, Assurant Solutions and Assurant Specialty Property – have partnered with clients who are leaders in their industries and have built leadership positions in a number of specialty market segments in the U.S. and selected international markets. Assurant is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AIZ. The Assurant Web site is www.assurant.com.

College Parents of America is the nation's only membership organization dedicated to advocating for and providing practical information to parents of current and college-bound students. Based in Arlington, Virginia, it also provides discounts on a broad variety of educational and consumer products to help members save money while their children prepare for, apply to and make the transition to college. The College Parents of America Web site is www.collegeparents.org.