Universal policyholders face higher costs
ST. PETERSBURG - At midnight Sunday, Universal Health Careís thousands of Medicare Advantage plan policyholders will default to original Medicare if they donít switch to a new insurer. Members will have a special enrollment period through May 31 to find a comparable plan, but they could face higher premium and prescription costs in the meantime. Policyholder Barbara Gair said she still hasnít received official notification from Universal or the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about what happens to her coverage when the company shuts down Monday. Thatís why she took matters into her own hands this week and switched to a PPO that has contracts with the same doctors and specialists.ďI wasnít entirely panicked, but I was extremely worried and agitated because itís important to us to have some coverage,Ē said Gair, who lives in Ruskin. Universal Health Careís two Florida-based companies offered Medicare and Medicaid policies to about 140,000 people. Members should contact Universal directly about coverage questions until Monday, when the state Department of Financial Services will take over the company and use its assets to pay out existing claims and debts. Medicare members will be transitioned to a comparable prescription drug plan Monday until they find other coverage. Any change to a new plan will be effective on the first day of the month after the person enrolls, so a person who switches to a new plan after April 1 wonít have the new coverage until May 1. The volunteer group SHINE, Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders, plans to help Medicare and Medicaid policyholders find new coverage. ďThereís a wide variety of plans offered throughout Florida, so there shouldnít be an issue with people finding another plan,Ē said Andrea Gary, the groupís public relations manager. But Gary warned those who rely on their Universal coverage to pay for Medicare Part B reimbursements will face extra costs if they donít find another plan this weekend.