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Physicians United Members Face Deadline

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Sunday is the final day seniors covered by a now-defunct Medicare Advantage plan can select a different policy.

The state’s Department of Financial Services took over operation of the Physician’s United Plan in early June, when it was more than $13 million in debt and unable to pay many creditors.

  

At the time, more than 50,000 Floridians had Medicare Advantage medical and prescription drug plans with the Orlando company nicknamed “PUP.”

When the state took over, policy holders were sent a letter and automatically signed up for Original Medicare so they didn’t lose coverage, said Jay Todras, a volunteer with SHINE, Florida’s free insurance counseling program for seniors. They also were told a special enrollment period to select new coverage would expire Aug. 31.

“I think the letters are very clear about letting the people know that they are not left out without coverage and that there are certain time frames,” he said.

Letters went out to every policy holder, from both the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the state. Those notices explained that as of June 30, their Physicians United membership ended and by default, they would be enrolled in Original Medicare and a new prescription drug plan.

Todras said, however, not everyone opened the letters. He has been helping individuals decide if they want a new plan offered according to where they live, or if they want to keep default coverage assigned by the state. A spokesman with CMS said they were not sure how many policy holders have already made a selection.

“They’re still not absolutely certain as to what the process is, so we may answer some of the questions that they still may have,” he said.

About half of the policy holders Todras has counseled have chosen another Medicare Advantage plan run by a private insurance company, and which usually offers more benefits and lower premiums. The rest stick with Original Medicare and its $105-a-month premium, he said.

"Many people are happy as long as they have a physician. They just want to be covered,” he said. “The other thing is that certain people with medications anticipating the costs of the medications, particularly if they are taking name-brand drugs and such. That accounts for a lot of the questions as well."

The official liquidation by the state Department of Financial Services began July 1. Creditors wanting to file a claim against Physicians United have until mid-2015 to do so, said Chris Cate, spokesman for Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

Health News Florida is part of WUSF Public Media. Contact Reporter Mary Shedden at (813) 974-8636, on Twitter @MaryShedden, or email at shedden@wusf.org. For more health news, visit HealthNewsFlorida.org.