BCBSRI Medicare Advantage plans add no-cost, enhanced features

PROVIDENCE – The Medicare Advantage plans offered each year by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island – plans that recently received vaunted five-star ratings from federal regulators – are being beefed up with no-cost benefits and enhanced features like the “Papa Pals” daily assistance program, pairing older adults with helpers for everyday tasks like food shopping, transportation and household chores.

And after a rough COVID-19 pandemic, these types of affordable and often cost-free services are more important than ever, “featuring convenient ways to save money, stay active and healthy, and feel supported and connected,” according to a statement from the insurer.

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“The past 19 months have taught us the importance of having a team in place to help address every aspect of health and well-being,” said Melissa Cummings, executive vice president and chief customer officer for Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island. “That’s why our five-star Medicare offerings meet Rhode Islanders where they are, with the accessible, affordable, high-quality care they have asked for.”

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island said it’s bringing back its two main plans: The BlueCHiP for Medicare Value HMO plan with a $0 monthly premium; and the HealthMate for Medicare PPO plan, which offers a national network of health care providers with no referral requirements. However, this year the health insurer is also launching BlueRI for Duals HMO special needs plan for Rhode Islanders who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid.

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All of these plans include the new enhanced benefits for 2022, including the “Papa Pals” daily living assistance program aimed at older adults, assigning them an in-home “Pal” who can help them to use the computer or phone apps, do household chores, buy food, arrange transportation and also offer companionship. 

The Medicaid Advantage plans, with the exception of the BlueCHiP plan, provide the option of a new enhanced insulin savings program that costs $35 as a monthly copay, covering all kinds of formulary insulins.

There’s also enhanced volunteer and social opportunities through through the Medicaid Advantage plans through a program called Amava Circles, the health insurer said.

“Members who are looking for ways to get (and stay) connected have the opportunity to meet others, learn, have fun, give back and do some good through Amava Circles and volunteer programs,” according to a statement from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island announcing the new features. “Opportunities are available for in-person and virtual volunteering through local, regional and national nonprofit organizations.”

The new “Silver&Fit” program through the Medicare Advantage plans provide no-cost gym memberships at more than 16,500 fitness centers across the country, in addition to “home fitness kits” provided through the program.

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island is encouraging patients and their families to visit its interactive website for Medicare plans to choose one during the ongoing open enrollment period, which ends on Dec. 7. The interactive website can be found at www.bcbsri.com/medicare.

Members who are already enrolled in one of the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island Medicare Advantage plans don’t need to take any action to keep the same plan and receive the new and enhanced benefits, the health insurance company said. Current members’ plan coverage will automatically renew on January 1, 2022, the company said.

Marc Larocque is a PBN staff writer. Contact him at Larocque@PBN.com.