BY STEVE KEMME
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LEBANON -- About 800 elderly Warren County residents will retain their medical insurance now that Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield has abandoned its plans to drop HMO Medicare coverage in six Ohio counties and parts of three others.
Anthem, a Cincinnati-based insurer, announced Thursday it has received federal approval to restore or continue coverage for nine Ohio counties, including those in northern Warren County.
Anthem officials attributed their change of heart to recent meetings with federal Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) officials and U.S. Rep. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, Ohio Rep. Rose Vesper, R-New Richmond, and other public officials.
"We have worked very hard over the past several months to find a way we could restore Anthem Senior Advantage coverage to these areas," Lynne Gross, Anthem vice president, said in a press release.
The HCFA must approve Anthem's proposed 1999 benefit structure before the insurer can formally offer HMO Medicare coverage in Brown, Darke, Greene, Miami, Preble and Shelby counties and in those parts of Warren, Columbiana and Madison counties where the product was scheduled to be withdrawn.
In May, Anthem announced that low federal reimbursement rates in rural areas would cause the company to drop about 20,000 elderly in 22 Ohio counties.
The federal government had placed limits on premiums and planned to pay Anthem less to cover those living in suburban and rural areas. The HCFA is the sole funding source for the plan, which charges no premiums or co-payments for customers.