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Fla insurance shutdown hits 100,000 Medicare/Medicaid beneficiaries

April 1, 2013
by Pamela Tabar, Senior Editor
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Universal Health Care Insurance, a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based insurance company, closed its doors late last week, forcing some 100,000 Florida Medicare/Medicaid beneficiaries and hundreds in other states to find other insurance arrangements over the holiday weekend. The deadline to choose alternate insurance is today, and beneficiaries impacted by the sudden closure are not laughing at the April Fool’s deadline.

Universal’s shutdown came in the wake of Thursday’s federal raid on the company, under suspicions of fraudulent billing practices, Tampa Bay’s WTSP TV reports. The company will now be taken over by the state for liquidation, and its 800 employees have lost their jobs.

In addition to Universal’s Florida base, the company also had HMO licensing in 25 other states, WTSP TV reports. As of April 1, beneficiaries who did not switch policies will automatically be enrolled in traditional Medicare or Medicaid to avoid any coverage gaps, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

In the coming weeks, beneficiaries affected by the shutdown should expect letters from CMS or the American Health Care Association describing the options and application process for changing coverage after April 1, according to WTSP TV.

The raid may have been a surprise, but Universal’s financial troubles have drawn the attention of state regulators since 2007, according to a February article in the Tampa Bay Times. Universal Health had filed for bankruptcy protection in February, and its parent company, Universal Health Care, Inc., was ordered into receivership by a Florida court on March 21.

Questions about the Long-Term Care Nursing Home Diversion Program should be directed to the
Florida Department of Elder Affairs or by calling 1-800-96-ELDER (1-800-963-5337). A list of other contacts and resources is available on Universal's corporate web site.

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