Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is jumping into the Medicare Advantage business through its HMO Louisiana subsidiary, which has signed a contract with the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to sell the coverage.

“We are excited about making our entrance into the Medicare Advantage market this fall,” said Mike Reitz, Blue Cross president and CEO. “And I believe that consumers will be equally excited about the options we will have for them.”

Blue Advantage (HMO) will be available in 14 parishes in the Baton Rouge, Greater New Orleans, North Shore and Acadiana areas. These parishes include Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Lafayette, Livingston, Orleans, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Landry, St. Tammany, Washington and West Baton Rouge.

Medicare Advantage plans, or Medicare Part C, often offer extra coverage, like vision, hearing, dental, and/or health and wellness programs that aren’t covered under the traditional, government-run Medicare program. Most Medicare Advantage plans also include prescription drug coverage. The coverage, provided by private insurance companies, is popular with consumers. Consumers like Medicare Advantage plans because they fill coverage gaps, offer extra benefits and may have lower out-of-pocket expenses than traditional Medicare. An estimated 16 million people are covered by Medicare Advantage plans,

“With Blue Advantage, we are giving consumers the strength of the Cross and Shield,” said Dan Paquin, senior vice president of government programs for Blue Cross. “We are committed to providing coverage from birth through retirement, and this product helps us do just that.”

The annual election period for Medicare Advantage is Oct. 15–Dec. 7.

Follow Ted Griggs on Twitter @tedgriggsbr