12 ON YOUR SIDE: Anthem, other carriers drop coverage for 35,000 in Virginia

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you are enrolled in a medicare advantage plan, there's a chance you won't have coverage for long.

Anthem and a few other insurance carriers have discontinued certain medicare plans. 35,000 people in Virginia are affected.

People started getting letters a couple weeks ago. It affects anyone eligible for medicare or with a disability and under 65 years old.

If you get a coverage reduction letter, it means your plan is no longer offered in your zip code. If you don't take action before December 31, you won't have coverage next year.

"It's going to cost me tremendously, a lot more now," said James Tanner.

Tanner's medicare plan goes away in 2013. Anthem is discontinuing its medicare advantage PPO. Tanner says it's the best coverage he's ever had.

"No premium. I didn't have any premium at all," said Tanner.

He started with supplemental coverage from his former employer at $250 a month, and then he switched to Anthem.

"The first year I went on medicare advantage it was $25 as the premium. But, the next two years it went to zero. I figure in three years, just saving $250 a month was a lot of money," said Tanner.

Medicare is already confusing and now coverage reduction letters showing up in mail boxes, Tanner believes, will cause disappointment and more confusion.

Anthem says it's discontinuing one product but offering another. Anthem has opened up four new health care centers for the medicare population.

It partly blames health care reform for cuts in coverage and patients not actively involved in their own care.

Anthem said it started calling its members trying to make sure they were taking their medication and doing what they can to reduce costs and hospital visits, but the house calls failed to produce savings.

Anthem says it notified 6,200 people that the plan would end.

"The fact that this could leave some individuals without coverage after January 1 is a pretty big deal," said Lee Biedrycki, president of Virginia Senior Services.

Biedrycki says three hundred agents write policies through V.S.S.

He believes the changes hit hard and wide. He says united healthcare and today's options are also dropping certain medicare plans.

"There is a significant amount of politics involved, but our goal is to make sure that the community knows there is a resource and how to get the answers for themselves," said Biedrycki.

Carriers don't think they're getting enough reimbursement to process claims. Virginia Senior Services says contact your agent, or go to the website medicare.gov. for help and information on other plans. You can also call 1-800-medicare.

The annual enrollment period is October 15 through December 7 so you have to take action soon if you received a coverage reduction letter or a letter announcing changes.

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