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AmeriHealth New Jersey to drop Medicare Advantage business

AmeriHealth New Jersey, a subsidiary of Philadelphia's Independence Blue Cross, has notified customers that it is dropping its Medicare Advantage business in the state at the end of this year.

"While several factors contributed to our decision to discontinue offering Medicare Advantage plans in 2017, increased utilization and inadequate funding were the most pressing," spokeswoman Jill Roman said Tuesday.

AmeriHealth was one of only two carriers that offered the private version of Medicare in all of New Jersey's 21 counties, Roman said.

"We found ourselves unable to sustain the rich offerings our beneficiaries have become accustomed to the past few years," she said.

AmeriHealth's market share in Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester Counties was 36 percent in September, but its overall market share for the state was less than 6 percent, according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

New Jersey's biggest Medicare Advantage provider by far is UnitedHealthcare, whose overall market share in the state was 42 percent in September. Aetna is second, with a quarter of the market.

Aetna is staying in the market, but it is not renewing two plans for next year that enroll about 4,500 in southern New Jersey, company spokesman Walt Cherniak said.

"However, we hope to retain these members in one of our two new [preferred provider organization] plans for this area," Cherniak added.

Medicare Advantage open enrollment starts Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7 for plans that take effect Jan. 1.