New Jersey Blues Plan Links With Two Big Health Systems To Tap Medicare Advantage

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and two of the state’s biggest hospital systems are forming a health plan specifically to tap into the fast-growing business of Medicare Advantage, the privatized health insurance for seniors.

Horizon Blue Cross Monday said it is launching a new health plan it will jointly own with Hackensack Meridian Health, which operates 17 hospitals and an array of outpatient medical care providers across New Jersey. The two hope to soon add RWJBarnabas Health, which includes 11 hospitals, to the partnership pending regulatory approvals in New Jersey.

The new health plan, called Braven Health, will be jointly owned by Horizon and Hackensack Meridian, and will begin this fall marketing “a new New Medicare Advantage Offering in Eight Counties Starting January 1, 2021,” the companies said.

“Braven Health plans use Horizon BCBSNJ’s existing Medicare Advantage managed care networks, meaning that every doctor and hospital that participates in those networks, which are among the largest in New Jersey, will also be in-network for comparable Braven Health plans,” the companies involved said in statement Monday afternoon. “As a Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) plan, Braven Health’s members choosing a PPO plan will also have access to the BCBS national Medicare Advantage PPO network whenever outside of New Jersey.”

The effort is the latest by health insurance companies to form closer ties with medical care providers when it comes to selling health coverage and Medicare Advantage in particular.

Already, CVS Health, which two years ago bought the health insurer Aetna, is jointly selling health plan products highlighting CVS pharmacists, clinics and related providers while the nation’s largest health insurer, UnitedHealth Group, which owns the healthcare services and provider business Optum, has long been developing health insurance products targeting seniors and others. And other health plans, including Anthem, which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in 14 states, has acquired doctor practices that treat hundreds of seniors in Florida as a way to expand its Medicare Advantage business.

Medicare Advantage plans contract with the federal government to provide health benefits to seniors plus some extras and rules have changed to allow these private insurers to offer more supplemental benefits as well. Major health insurers are expanding into new markets to sell Medicare Advantage and the Horizon Blue Cross effort with Hackensack Meridian Health and RWJBarnabas is yet another way to attract seniors by highlighting medical care providers they know.

“Today’s Medicare eligible New Jerseyan wants a health care partner that supports their active, vibrant lifestyles,” Horizon Blue Cross chief executive Gary D. St. Hilaire said in a statement. “By providing a health care experience that is comprehensive, integrated and simple to navigate, Braven Health is a new way to health for a new generation of Medicare members.”

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