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More Arizona seniors could qualify for dual-eligible special-needs plans

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Alex Gonzalez

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(Arizona News Connection) Arizona is one of the states with the highest percentage of eligible seniors enrolled in dual-use special-needs plans but there is a push to get even more on board.

In 2021, 47 percent of eligible Arizonans were signed up, sitting well above the national average of 29 percent, according to KFF.

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Dr. Gina Williams, associate medical director for UnitedHealthcare, said the plans offer standard Medicare benefits as well as additional services meeting the unique needs of its members.

"Everything from managing your wellness to managing your behavioral health needs and then everyday needs," Williams outlined. "It's kind of a more comprehensive package for people who need a little bit more support."

The plans can offer benefits beyond what you get from original Medicare and Medicaid. Benefits include dental coverage, gym memberships, eyeglasses, hearing aids as well as allowances for healthy foods and over-the-counter products, according to the National Council on Aging.

Arizonans facing health challenges, those who are considered low-income and people of color are more likelyto be dually eligible, compared with the "only-Medicare" population, according to the legal nonprofit Justice in Aging.

Williams noted the push to get more eligible people to sign up coincides with more awareness around preventive care in a post-pandemic world.

"Everybody's kind of going into a phase where they're not only thinking about acute illness, but they're thinking about overall care," Williams explained. "What was the impact of the pandemic from a psychological standpoint? Do you need more support, and then you also need more coordination of benefits?"

While the Grand Canyon State has fared well when it comes to the number of dually enrolled individuals, many around the country have been losing Medicaid coverage as the public health emergency came to an end. At the end of 2023, 5 percent of Arizona residents have been dropped from Medicaid.