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United Healthcare Announces 'United Health Passport,' the First HCFA Approved Extended Absence Program for Medicare Health Plan Members

 Members can Travel up to Nine Months Without Losing Benefits


MINNEAPOLIS, Jan. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- United HealthCare Corporation (NYSE: UNH) announced today that "United Health Passport," the first extended absence membership program approved by the federal Health Care Finance Administration (HCFA) for Medicare health plan members in the United States, will be available to members of participating United HealthCare Medicare health plans beginning this month. The program will allow United HealthCare's Medicare members to use their health plan benefits at participating United HealthCare sites throughout the United States. United Health Passport extends the member's coverage of benefits including preventive care, office visits and prescription drugs for up to nine continuous months.

HCFA granted approval for United Health Passport on December 20, 1996. It was the first extended absence program available in the United States. United Health Passport is included, at no additional cost to members, in United HealthCare's Medicare health plan programs for both individual Medicare beneficiaries and employer groups who select Medicare health plan-based coverage from a participating plan.

"The Passport program was created due to consumer response. Our Medicare members want health care coverage that can travel with them," said Jeannine Rivet, executive vice president, United HealthCare Corporation. "United Health Passport continues United HealthCare's commitment to provide members with high quality, cost effective care across the country."

Prior to United Health Passport, Medicare health plan members were restricted to receiving coverage for only emergency or urgent care services when they traveled outside their home health plan service area. If they wanted extended travel benefits, they sometimes had the option of purchasing a separate travel insurance rider that was effective for up to 90 days.

"With United Health Passport, members of our Medicare health plans have one less item to deal with as they pack their bags to travel: their health care coverage. Instead of worrying about finding a doctor or transferring insurance coverage, members can activate their Passport feature by calling their member service representative. By doing so, they can then obtain health care much like they are accustomed to at home," said Tom Anderson, vice president of Medicare Programs, United HealthCare Corporation. "They also don't need to shorten their vacations to accommodate health coverage travel limitations because United Health Passport is effective for up to nine continuous months versus the standard 90 day coverage that is restricted to urgent and emergency room care only."

United Health Passport is made possible through United HealthCare's broad presence across the United States. United HealthCare presently has over 18 Medicare health plan sites nationwide. United Health Passport is currently being accepted in the following sites:
 -- Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN -- Atlanta, GA
 -- Milwaukee, WI -- Tampa, FL
 -- Chicago, IL -- Miami, FL
 -- St. Louis, MO -- Orlando, FL
 -- Providence/Warwick, RI -- Cincinnati, OH
 -- New Orleans, LA -- Columbus, OH
 -- Baton Rouge, LA -- Cleveland, OH
 -- Birmingham, AL -- Dayton, OH
 -- Mobile, AL -- the state of Maryland


-- portions of Massachusetts

United HealthCare is committed to growth and plans to add a significant number of Medicare health plans in 1997. Eventually, United HealthCare will have a Medicare presence in 25 states.

United Health Passport At Work

"United Health Passport works much like a reciprocity program. We expect that during the winter, Florida and other southern health plans will attract a large volume of travelers, and during the summer, northern plans will see an increase of visitors," said Anderson.

A member activates the United Health Passport feature before traveling by calling the Member Services telephone number listed on the United HealthCare member ID card. When a member wants to go to a physician outside of the home service area, he or she simply calls the home health plan and the plan provides a list of participating physicians in the travel location. The member can then arrange to see any participating physician on the list. If a member is currently receiving care, United HealthCare Member Services can help arrange for continuation of that care at the member's travel destination.

While members travel, they may obtain health care services at approved United HealthCare sites from participating providers simply by presenting their member ID card. Members' benefits remain the same, although traveling members need prior authorization for certain services, including specialty, inpatient, and some outpatient care.

"Many Medicare members aren't accustomed to managed health plans, so we've structured the program to make it easy to use," said Anderson. "Once members have activated their Passport feature, they use their member ID card with the United Health Passport logo to access care."

United HealthCare is a leader in providing health services for the federal Medicare program. All managed Medicare programs must receive HCFA approval prior to serving members. Typically, managed Medicare programs give Medicare- eligible people more health care coverage (such as preventive care, prescription drugs, etc.) at reduced expense. United HealthCare's managed Medicare programs pay for services usually covered by Medicare, Medicare supplements and patients through out-of-pocket expenses.

United HealthCare Corporation (http://www.uhc.com) is a national leader in health care management, serving purchasers, consumers, managers and providers of health care since 1974. The company serves over 40 million individuals through a broad continuum of health care products and services.

SOURCE United HealthCare Corporation
 -0- 1/8/97


/CONTACT: Diana Campau of United HealthCare, 612-936-1933/

(UNH)

CO: United HealthCare Corporation ST: Minnesota IN: HEA INS SU: PDT

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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jan 8, 1997
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