Wanted: Senior health insurance


Herald Writer

When Raleigh Johnson opened his mail last week, a letter informed him that upcoming Medicare HMO changes will force him to sever his 15-year relationship with The Everett Clinic.

"This HMO thing has just been a nightmare," the 73-year-old Everett man said.

Johnson initially had Medicare HMO coverage through the Sisters of Providence.

"They dumped me; they went out of business," he said. "I got Regence Care. They raised their premium. I thought that would take care of it."

But earlier this year, Aetna, Premera, Regence and First Choice announced they were dropping their Medicare HMO plans in the county effective Jan. 1, leaving 7,600 Medicare patients in Snohomish County scrambling for options.

Even though 45 seminars have been held in Snohomish County to explain the changes, "they’re panicking," said Janet Chester, who as volunteer coordinator for the state Insurance Commissioner’s Office has scheduled the local meetings.

So far, an estimated 2,000 people have attended the meetings.

Locally, this leaves Group Health, supplemental or Medigap plans and Sterling Life Insurance Co., which is offering a plan described by the company as a cross between managed care and a standard Medicare supplement, allowing patients to go to any physician they want.

The plans pay for medical costs not paid by Medicare.

Although PacifiCare continues to serve patients in Snohomish County, the plan is not accepting new patients.

Seminars are scheduled through early December to help Medicare patients understand their options.

Recent Medicare workshops have often been packed beyond capacity, Chester said.

"We have 100 people seated and 40 to 50 waiting," she said. "When they see they may not get into the seminar, they’re upset."

That’s why preregistration is required at many of the upcoming meetings.

Unlike some seniors attending the seminars, Johnson said he knows what he will be doing next year. He’s already signed up for Group Health, but will have to absorb a significant premium increase.

Under his current Regence plan, Johnson pays $45.50 a month. Next year, that will jump to $84 a month, he said.

To remain at The Everett Clinic, Johnson and other Medicare enrollees would have to buy a supplemental Medicare plan, or go with Medicare alone.

The clinic recently sent out letters to all its Medicare HMO patients telling them that it has not contracted with any Medicare HMO plans next year.

"You may choose to continue your relationship with your physician at The Everett Clinic after Dec. 31. However, The Everett Clinic will not be available to Medicare managed-care enrollees," the letter says.

It’s this changing, often-confusing puzzle of Medicare health plans that Chester is trying to help residents solve.

"We’re getting 30 to 40 phone calls a day and have peaked up to 60 phone calls a day," Chester said. "Our No. 1 goal is to help the Snohomish County residents affected by this."

For more information, contact the Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisers help line at 1-800-397-4422.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A big decision for Boeing’s next CEO: Is it time for a new plane?

As Boeing faces increased competition from Airbus, the company is expected to appoint a new CEO by the end of the year.

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Mukilteo Speedway name change is off to a bumpy start

The city’s initial crack at renaming the main drag got over 1,500 responses. Most want to keep the name.

Two workers walk past a train following a press event at the Lynnwood City Center Link Station on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Trains up and running on Lynnwood Link — but no passengers quite yet

Officials held an event at the Lynnwood station announcing the start of “pre-revenue” service. Passengers still have to wait till August.

Nedra Vranish, left, and Karen Thordarson, right browse colorful glass flowers at Fuse4U during Sorticulture on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
A promenade through Everett’s popular Sorticulture garden festival

Check out a gallery of the festival’s first day.

Left to right, Everett Pride board members Ashley Turner, Bryce Laake, and Kevin Daniels pose for a photo at South Fork Bakery in Everett, Washington on Sunday, May 26, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Second Everett Pride aims for even bigger rainbow of festivities

Organizers estimated about 3,000 people attended the first block party in Everett. This year, they’re aiming for 10,000.

Everett Herald staff gather and talk in the newsroom after layoff announcements on Wednesday, June 19, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘This breaks my heart’: Over half of Everett Herald news staff laid off

A dozen journalists were handed walking papers Wednesday, in a wave of layoffs mandated by new owners, Carpenter Media Group.

The I-5, Highway 529 and the BNSF railroad bridges cross over Union Slough as the main roadways for north and southbound traffic between Everett and Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Highway 529 squeeze starts now between Everett, Marysville

Following a full closure for a night, starting late Sunday, Highway 529 will slim down to two lanes for months near the Snohomish River Bridge.

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road on Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Long live the Speedway! Mukilteo’s main drag won’t be renamed

The public shot down the mayor’s idea to change the name: 77% voted ‘No’ in an online survey, with 95% opposed on Facebook.

Motorcyclist dies in crash on East Marine View Drive in Everett

Around 8 p.m. Tuesday, a motorcycle and a vehicle crashed into each other at the intersection of 11th street and East Marine View Drive.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Darrington in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Motorcyclist dies in crash on Highway 530

Jeremy Doyle, 46, was riding east near Darrington when he crashed into the side of a car that was turning left.

The Marysville School District office on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Financially insolvent’ Marysville schools to get unprecedented oversight

Superintendent Chris Reykdal will convene a first-of-its-kind Financial Oversight Committee, he wrote in a letter Tuesday.

Woodside Elementary Principal Betty Cobbs on Monday, June 17, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett’s first Black principal retires after 51 years

In her office, Betty Cobbs kept a black-and-white photo of herself at age 5: “I am right there, with dreams of becoming an educator.”

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.