StrongCare Health Plan to be Discontinued December 31, 2001

September 01, 2000

The Strong Health system and BlueCross BlueShield of the Rochester Area have agreed to discontinue the StrongCare health insurance product as of December 31, 2001.

The decision to discontinue the Strong Care insurance plan does not impact the operations of the Strong Health system. Strong Health is comprised of Strong Memorial and Highland Hospitals and their physician network, the Children's Hospital at Strong, the Highlands at Pittsford, the Highlands at Brighton, Eastman Dental Center and the Visiting Nurse Service.

While StrongCare will continue as a health insurance plan for another 15 months, its parent organizations are announcing their decision now to allow employers and StrongCare's 25,000 members time to make informed decisions about their health insurance coverage.

StrongCare was created four years ago as a partnership between Strong Health and BlueCross BlueShield. The product was designed to offer high-quality health insurance for employers and members who were willing to have a limited panel of providers in return for lower premiums and some enhanced benefits. The managed care plan features access to specialists without the need for referrals, and programs for women and families.

"StrongCare was created to be a catalyst for change -- and it did that," said Margaret Clark, vice president of Network Partnerships for BlueCross BlueShield of the Rochester Area. "The evidence is in the introduction of other lower-cost insurance products in the Rochester market since 1996. But at the same time, those new products have changed the dynamics of StrongCare's role and affected its growth."

The decision allows Strong Health to concentrate on its core missions as a health system, said Kathleen M. Parrinello, StrongCare executive director at Strong Health.

"The Strong Health system has a vibrant and growing patient care network, exciting teaching programs and an expanding research initiative," she said. "It makes sense for us to channel our limited resources into those activities that improve patient care."

Cost was also a factor in the decision to discontinue the plan. The increasing cost of prescription drugs and outpatient services, along with the increasing use of health care services will require StrongCare to have a significant rate increase for 2001. This will further reduce StrongCare's competitive position.

For StrongCare members, medical care will continue to be provided through StrongCare's panel of physicians and its participating hospitals through December 31, 2001.

StrongCare's members will need to select another health plan between now and December 31, 2001. Exactly when that decision would have to be made depends upon whether the member's employer decides to continue to offer StrongCare as a health care option in 2001.

"We're inviting StrongCare's members to choose another BlueCross BlueShield plan," Clark said. "We offer a wide array of insurance plans aimed at meeting a member's needs while remaining affordable."

Strong Health is, and will continue to remain, a participant in Blue Choice, Rochester's largest managed care health insurance plan. Blue Choice's physician panel includes 95% of all of the physicians in the Rochester area.

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