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Premera Expands Coverage of Cardiovascular Drugs in Washington.

First-Dollar Coverage for Generic Medications Used to Treat High Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure Means Broader Coverage for More Members

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE, Wash. -- Answering the desire of members with certain cardiovascular risk factors to take charge of their health insurance, Premera Blue Cross announced today it will begin offering first-dollar coverage in 2007 on more than 130 generic medications used to reduce the risk of complications associated with high cholesterol and high blood pressure for members enrolled in High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) qualified for use with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

"Reducing the risk of developing more serious health conditions, lowering the barriers to coverage and promoting generic drugs is a win-win-win proposition for our members," said Ed Wong, PharmD, director of pharmacy for Premera.

"Prescription drug costs account for about 15 percent of all medical claims we pay for our members," says Wong. "Cholesterol and blood pressure lowering medications have become the second and seventh most costly drug classes for Premera's members accounting for more than $70 million in spending in 2006. Generic usage can save a member hundreds of dollars on average in out of pocket costs."

By offering first-dollar coverage, Premera demonstrates that high-deductible plans, when combined with a HSA, are not just for the "young and healthy" needing to protect themselves from catastrophic medical events. It allows members to enjoy lower premium costs of high-deductible plans while ensuring earlier coverage for the preventive care they need. In many cases, the benefits offered by higher-deductible plans can help offset a member's annual health-care costs while giving them an opportunity to save for future medical needs.

"Expanding coverage of effective preventive medication is a key improvement to our High Deductible Health Plans," said John Castiglia, MD, Premera's chief medical officer. "This type of care has some of the best clinical results when it comes to preventing more serious health problems later in life. We are taking a healthy step forward for our members."

The company also hopes this enhancement will encourage more members to take advantage of the many benefits of Health Savings Accounts, including tax-free savings for future medical expenses.

"We are opening the door to people who felt they had been shut out of the next generation of health insurance," said Premera CEO Gubby Barlow. "This is another example of how we are working to ensure better health for our members and more sustainable costs."

Employer groups are making decisions now about 2007 benefit plans. Premera affiliates have already rolled out this program in three other Western states in 2006. Washington groups may begin offering this enhancement as early as March 1, 2007.

About Health Savings Accounts

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is money put in a special account owned by an individual to pay for current and future medical expenses. Created in 2003, HSAs are used in conjunction with a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP), which typically does not cover "first dollar" medical expenses. HSAs were modeled after the Archer Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs). All individuals are eligible who are covered by an HDHP, are not covered by other health insurance, are not eligible for Medicare, and cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else's tax return.

About Premera Blue Cross

Our mission is to provide peace of mind to our members about their health-care coverage. We provide health insurance and related services to more than 1.3 million people. Premera Blue Cross has operated in Washington since 1933, and Alaska since 1957. Premera Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

Premera Blue Cross is a member of a family of companies based in Mountlake Terrace, Washington, that provide health, life, vision, dental, and long-term care insurance, and other related services.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Dec 22, 2006
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