Welcome to insurance talk with Cheri Martinen. I am here today with a special guest from Regence BCBS of Oregon, Lisa Kirkland and Jason Hegstad. We are so glad to have Regence here as they have a bunch of new plans available in Deschutes County for the 2023 Medicare Annual Election Period.
New PPO Plan for Medicare Starting in 2023
We’re getting into the Medicare Advantage annual election period, and we have some exciting news for Central Oregon especially. Right now, we are traveling the state sharing information about our plans and training the brokers to get ready for the open enrollment, what we call annual election period for Medicare.
The big thing here in Bend and Central Oregon is that we’re offering a new PPO plan for Medicare that starts for 2023. So, this Fall, agents are going to be able to enroll people in a plan where they have coverage within network providers throughout the country. If they live in the Deschutes area, they’re going to be able to have providers in 48 states. That includes, District of Columbia includes and Puerto Rico. You’ll have in network Blue Cross or Blue Shield providers throughout the country.
And so, like, we might be used to a lot of something that we call an HMO, which it has more of a restrictive network for our doctors where we kind of have to stay in network. And a lot of times it’s within Oregon. What’s really special about this new PPO plan from Regence is, again, it is nationwide.
In order to join the Medicare Advantage plan, they have to live in the service area here locally, but then they have access to providers throughout the country. We do also offer a local HMO plan that coordinates with the local providers. So, whether it’s St. Charles or Summit Health there’s a lot of local providers that are in the network for their HMO as well. If somebody likes that coordinated care of a local network and doesn’t travel very much, there’s good value in an HMO if they like the flexibility of going where they want to go. If they snowbird to California or Arizona during the winter, they’re going to have providers there that are available within the network instead of having to pay more to go outside the network.
New PPO Plan with Prescription Drug Coverage
It’s a Medicare Advantage Plan with prescription drug coverage, a lot of extra bells and whistles for, support with over-the-counter medications and supplies for virtual companionship for personal emergency response device. Remember the old “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up?” It’s like that, but on steroids! They’re GPS enabled and a lot more than it used to be but, they have support wherever they are.
All of the Medicare Advantage plans that we offer have things that you would expect, like routine vision and dental hearing aid coverage and those kinds of things that you would expect to go along with medical benefits. We do have a lot of folks that appreciate the alternative care as well. So, things like acupuncture, therapeutic massage, you can have chiropractic naturopath visits. All of those things are kind of additional services that are there. In addition to the Medicare benefits, so many things that have been added like meals after a hospital stay or for folks that are dealing with chronic conditions. And we have an exciting new benefit or an expansion of our benefit for companionship.
Papa Pals is a national partner where they offer pals in local areas where folks can come over and help around the house. They can do some lighthouse cleaning, take somebody for a walk or play chess or something to keep these folks engaged and have some companionship. But also now, in addition to things like picking up groceries or picking up prescriptions, that kind of thing, they actually can offer transportation. So, if they want their pal to take them to their doctor’s appointment, they can help with that or take them to church or the gym. They can help with light exercise, they can help walk the dog, feed the dog, those kinds of things. So, where I see this as a real benefit and well, I should say technology support right, too.
For some of our older seniors, they may not know how to use Skype or FaceTime or those kinds of things. They might not know how to set up their computer or how do I use this iPad and connect with my relatives. So, these pals are also trained to offer, technology support. There are so many things that they can do though. One of the biggest things that I’m excited about is the transportation piece. You know, in some areas, if somebody’s taken the bus two hours to get to the doctor and back, that’s a lot less friendly than just having someone come pick you up, hang out at the doctor and wait for you and take you home.
Papa pals is available on all the region’s Medicare Advantage plans locally.
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Behavioral and Mental Health Benefits
Something else that I know we talked about quite a bit yesterday was that behavioral health or mental health, the benefits that Regence has added to all of their plans.
Throughout the time of Covid, when everything was shut down and everybody was stuck at home, there was a lot of loneliness and isolation and mental health exacerbation. I guess the the issues got more pronounced.
We even noticed it here in La Pine, especially because things like our senior center were closed, and so we didn’t have bingo night, line dancing or other social events that our seniors are used to having to be able to connect with others. They were just all gone. Luckily, many things have returned, but I think we probably all kind of got a little wake up call for what other needs we might have.
People with relationships too. You know they were stuck in the house with one person all the time or with their family all the time. That can be awesome or that can be frustrating. So, we have seen over the last couple of years a lot more utilization of mental health services and providers retiring early, not only because they’re getting older, but also because, there’s burnout and there’s a lot of it in the medical field. So, we have taken a very strong stance on trying to expand our provider panel, and we have contracted with a lot more mental health professionals over the last year to try and make healthcare more available for folks that need mental health services.
In addition, telehealth has become a big thing over the last couple of years. So those virtual therapy visits have become really a thing that people utilize. A couple years ago, you couldn’t have said that maybe two or 3% of people had actually ever had a telehealth visit in the time of Covid. That became a real thing. And we love it. People know it, love it, and use it now. So, folks that are using telehealth for their mental health visits are actually paying lower copays than people that are having in-person therapy visits. Just increasing access to care really is the goal here.
Prescription Drug Network
Most of the national chains are covered in the Regence pharmacy network. You’re thinking Fred Meyer, Costco, Walmart, Walgreens. Pretty much most of the pharmacies you would think of are contracted and in the network. That’s good for traveling as well, most of these networks are national.
There are also a couple of things to mention about the drug coverage. There are a couple of tiers on our prescriptions where it’s a zero copay. If you get them the right way, you’re gonna not have to pay anything for certain generics. One of the things that we’ve continued for going into next year is the insulin savings pilot program that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rolled out a couple years ago. We will be continuing with that. For folks that are uncovered insulins through the plan, they would pay a maximum of $35 a month for their insulins. There’s no deductible just throughout the year. The most they’ll pay is $35 a month,
Also with this new inflation reduction act, there’s a new change for 2023 where a lot of the higher cost vaccines will also be covered for zero. Shots like a shingles.
Extra Plan Benefits
There are so many extra things that are part of the plans. We talked about alternative care and dental and vision and all this stuff. There are a lot of extra ancillary benefits.
Regence have things like over the counter cards that people can go to Walgreens and swipe their card and get cough syrup or other over the counter supplies. Like vitamins, cotton balls, fish oil, vitamin D, etc.
What Makes Regence Different?
Regence is a local nonprofit. We’ve been part of this community in Oregon for over 80 years, and all of our employees live within our footprint. Regence as a company, as a brand. We we cover four states in the northwest, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Utah. For our Oregon plan, we have the local customer service, and we have the local broker services. All of our employees live and work within our footprint. If you’re talking to a customer service person, they’re probably in Medford, they’re in our area. We have folks that live here, work here, give back here, care about the local community. You’re not talking to somebody in St. Louis, Florida or offshore somewhere in the Philippines
Regence as a company has been here to help support the community for a very long time. When it comes to things like the wildfires or assistance during the pandemic with resources or just trying to help the community with local food banks and the Oregon Food Bank and all this stuff. We’ve been supporting the local community here for a very long time and we are always looking for opportunities to give back and be part of the community. We have some upcoming Alzheimer’s walks and a lot of different things where we plug in and give back and even get our agents involved in some of these nonprofits.
To enroll in a Regence BCBS Medicare Advantage Plan, simply request an appointment with one of our insurance agents via phone at (800) 452-6826 or on our online calendar.
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Disclaimer: This content is provided for general information purposes and is not intended to be used in place of consultation with our agents.