UNICARE Extends Lower Cost Health Care Coverage to Individuals and Families; New...

UNICARE Extends Lower Cost Health Care Coverage to Individuals and Families; New Legislation Enables Solid Benefits Package at More Affordable Prices


AUSTIN, Texas–(HISPANIC PR WIRE – BUSINESS WIRE)–Feb. 4, 2004–Individuals and families in Texas now have access to new Consumer Choice Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans, a more affordable and basic level of health care coverage previously unavailable in the state. UNICARE Life & Health Insurance Company (UNICARE) introduced its Consumer Choice PPO plans after the Texas Consumer Choice of Benefits Act (SB 541) became effective on January 1, 2004. UNICARE is the first carrier in Texas to offer Consumer Choice plans for individuals and families.

As a result of this landmark legislation, carriers may offer health plans to individuals and employers that do not contain all Texas state mandates. Consumers have the option to choose a health plan that offers a comprehensive set of benefits for a lower cost.

“Direct feedback from the agent and broker community, as well as consumers, indicated a need for simplified, more affordable, plan offerings,” said David Cheek, regional sales director, Southwest at UNICARE Individual & Small Group Businesses. “This legislation has allowed us to rework our traditional benefits and offer UNICARE Consumer Choice PPO plans, giving Texans the flexibility to choose a lower-cost health plan that works for their particular budget or lifestyle needs.”

Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) and Representative Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) authored and sponsored the legislation to offer individuals and families access to more affordable medical coverage and reduce the number of uninsured in the state.

“As a consequence of Texas’ previously long list of coverage benefits insurers had to offer, consumers were forced to choose between paying for benefits they didn’t want, or go without coverage,” Williams said. “Too many of our hard working families and other uninsured individuals have gone without insurance for too long.”

Representative Taylor added, “Savings have been secured by removing certain mandated benefits that people may not need, and now there are new options for those who have been squeezed out of the health care system or have otherwise considered going uninsured.” Consumer Choice PPO is part of a broader, cooperative commitment by UNICARE and Texas policymakers to help individuals find flexible and more affordable health care solutions for themselves and their families. Reducing the number of uninsured Texans reduces the strain on health care providers, taxpayers and the community as whole.

Studies by the Texas Department of Insurance show that cost is the main reason consumers in the state go without health insurance, and mandates can represent a significant portion of premium costs. According to the Kaiser Commission, Texas has the highest rate of uninsured in the nation, with 4.5 million residents, or 26 percent, without health coverage.

UNICARE Consumer Choice PPO plans are comprehensive, offering a similar benefit design and the same provider network as the UNICARE Performance Plans, but at a basic and more affordable level, with premiums up to 16 percent lower than UNICARE’s current portfolio of plans. For more information on UNICARE Consumer Choice PPO plans, individuals can contact their local agent, call 800-683-2273 or visit http://www.unicare.com.

Subject to regulatory approval, UNICARE intends to offer similar programs aimed at small employer groups as of April 1, 2004, and large group members in the second quarter of 2004.

UNICARE serves approximately 1.7 million medical members and is the national operating subsidiary of WellPoint Health Networks Inc., one of the nation’s largest publicly traded health care companies. WellPoint serves the health care needs of more than 15 million medical members and approximately 46 million specialty members. WellPoint offers a broad spectrum of quality network-based health products including open access PPO, POS and hybrid products, HMO and specialty products. Specialty products include pharmacy benefit management, dental, utilization management, vision, mental health, life and disability insurance, long term care insurance, flexible spending accounts, COBRA administration, and Medicare supplements.

Not all UNICARE products are available in all states where UNICARE is marketed. Insurance or health maintenance organization coverage is provided by any of the following: UNICARE Life & Health Insurance Company, UNICARE Health Insurance Company of the Midwest (IN and IL only) or UNICARE Health Plans of the Midwest, Inc. (HMO in IN and IL only), UNICARE Health Plans of Texas, Inc. (HMO in TX only), UNICARE Health Insurance Company of Texas (TX only), UNICARE Health Plan of Oklahoma, Inc. (HMO in OK only), and UNICARE Health Plan of Virginia, Inc. (HMO in VA only).

The news conference will be archived for 30 days and may be viewed after the event at: http://www.house.state.tx.us/media/press.htm




Mona Palmer Taylor, 512-633-4708


Sen. Tommy Williams

Jason Baxter, 512-463-0104


Rep. Larry Taylor

Shelton Green, 512-463-0729

UNICARE Extends Lower Cost Health Care Coverage to Individuals and Families; New Legislation Enables Solid Benefits Package at More Affordable Prices