Stanislaus County — Counselors who work with seniors are trying to clear up confusion over one of the Medicare Advantage plans available in Stanislaus County.
Monday, the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program stressed that the Easy Choice Best Plan will continue to serve local Medicare recipients and is offered for 2014. But people who signed up for the 2013 Easy Choice Best Plan need to re-enroll in the 2014 version of the plan for coverage to continue next year.
Seniors who have the Easy Choice Plus Plan dont need to do anything; the coverage will continue in 2014.
The Modesto HICAP office received calls and visits this month from Easy Choice customers who received Oct. 2 letters that said the plan was being discontinued. A HICAP counselor mistakenly told The Bee last week that Easy Choice no longer would serve the county.
But the company that owns Easy Choice gave assurances it is not leaving the county. Brian Barry, a spokesman for WellCare, which offers the plans in 12 California counties, explained that the 2013 Best Plan is being replaced by a new version for 2014. The company needed Medicare approval for the 2014 Best Plan and was required to notify customers the 2013 plan is discontinued.
Barry said the Best Plan, offered for the first time in Stanislaus County last year, was the same as one that exists in Southern California. WellCare decided to create a separate plan for Stanislaus County so customers here are not affected by any changes to co-payments or benefits in the Los Angeles plan.
The spokesman said brokers are helping customers to enroll in the 2014 Best Plan. They only need to fill out a new application, he said.
Sandy Ranzo-Howell, a HICAP insurance counselor, said several Easy Choice customers brought the letters they received to the HICAP office on Downey Avenue. Staff members were not able to get an explanation from Medicare about the status of the plan because of the federal government shutdown.
Barry said about 900 county residents are covered by the Best Plan. Its network of health care providers includes AllCare Independent Physician Association, Doctors Medical Center and Stanislaus Surgical Hospital of Modesto, Emanuel Medical Center of Turlock, and Oak Valley Hospital of Oakdale.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2321.