• Nineteen new counties are approved for 2010
• Plans are now available to individuals in 70 North Carolina counties

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — PARTNERS National Health Plans of North Carolina, Inc. (PARTNERS), a fully owned subsidiary of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC), has expanded its Blue Medicare HMO and Blue Medicare PPO network to include 70 North Carolina counties. These Medicare Advantage plans offer lower out-of-pocket costs and more benefits than traditional Medicare, including preventive care and routine vision care.

Nineteen new counties have been approved for 2010: Beaufort, Bladen, Chowan, Columbus, Duplin, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Haywood, Henderson, Hyde, Lincoln, Pender, Polk, Robeson, Sampson, Tyrrell, Warren and Washington. This will bring the total county coverage for these products to 70 of the 100 counties in North Carolina

“We are pleased to expand the availability of Medicare Advantage products to more counties throughout North Carolina," said Milo Brunick, BCBSNC vice president of network management. “Providing Medicare beneficiaries with more choice in their health options is important. It also benefits everyone to have additional coverage and better access to preventive care, all with lower out-of-pocket costs.”

Individuals can begin selecting the plans in these counties starting November 15, 2009 for a January 1, 2010 effective date.

PARTNERS was the first insurer in the state to offer a Medicare Advantage plan, and offers the highest rated plan for quality according to the Medicare Options Compare Tool, a Web-based comparison program developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Next year, plans will be available to individuals in 70 North Carolina counties, reaching 80 percent of North Carolinians eligible for Medicare. This recent expansion is based on approval from the CMS after a review of provider availability and accessibility in the counties.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is a leader in delivering innovative health care products, services and information to more than 3.7 million members, including approximately 900,000 served on behalf of other Blue Plans. For 76 years, the company has served its customers by offering health insurance at a competitive price and has served the people of North Carolina through support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Visit BCBSNC online at bcbsnc.com.