Health Care:

Southern Nevada Medicare patients told to find a new insurance provider

VEGAS INC coverage

Hundreds of Medicare recipients in Southern Nevada have been forced to change insurance carriers after their provider was liquidated amid fraud allegations.

Universal Health Care Insurance Co., which had about 1,800 customers in Clark County, was placed into receivership last month and liquidated Monday. Members were automatically enrolled in a government-run Medicare program and will not face a gap in coverage, federal officials said. However, the cost of their medical care could change under the new program.

Patients can keep seeing their primary and specialty care providers. Also, people who are hospitalized or receiving skilled nursing care can continue their treatment without interruption, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Members have until May 31 to choose another private carrier without penalty, or they can remain on the government-run plan.

Florida-based Universal Health had about 37,500 Medicare policyholders nationwide. An affiliate that also was liquidated Monday, Universal Health Care Inc., had 60,000 Medicaid and 40,000 Medicare enrollees.

Both arms of Universal used federal Medicare funds and member fees to offer more coverage to patients than the government typically provides.

But federal officials criticized the company in recent years for poor quality, and Florida state regulators accused its executives of fraud and other financial wrongdoing, according to the Tampa Bay Times. FBI agents raided the company’s St. Petersburg headquarters last week.

The carriers’ parent, Universal Health Care Group Inc., filed for bankruptcy protection in February.

In 2006, the company launched its “Any, Any, Any” plan, which marketed itself as letting members see any doctor, anywhere, at any time. It attracted thousands of clients but, according to the Tampa Bay Times, was marred by complaints of false advertising, poor customer service and denied medical service.

A spokesperson for Universal Health did not respond to a request for comment.

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