"The federal government puts 17 percent more into [private] Medicare Advantage plans than into its own plans. It covers eyeglasses, hearing aids, a variety of different benefits," Dexter said.
In January, Humana reversed a decision it made in late 2011 to remove Thomas Memorial and Saint Francis from its network of preferred providers.
Dexter also stressed the advantages of long-term physician-patient relationships, which can be broken up if a Medicare Advantage program excludes certain hospitals and physicians from its network.
"If a physician has been practicing for 25 years, he knows what you want," he said.
Carolyn Lewis, now 70, lives with her husband on Charleston's West Side. Lewis, who worked in the medical field for 40 years before she retired, was upset when Humana excluded Thomas from its program in late 2011.
"If a person of my age doesn't have the choice of what hospital to go to, it is sad," she said last January.
Last week, Lewis contacted Rockefeller's office about the current problems with Humana and CAMC.
"If I had my preference, I would rather go to Saint Francis or Thomas. But what happens if my husband is on heart medication or if he needs surgery? CAMC monopolizes heart surgery for this area.
"If he needs surgery, we could go to Cabell Huntington Hospital or St. Mary's Hospital in Huntington," Lewis said of getting care within Humana's network.
"We could still go to CAMC if there is a problem. But Humana will only pay 30 percent of the costs," she added.
"We would also be subject to a very large deductible, probably about $7,000, since CAMC is out of the [Humana] network. If we stay in network, we have zero co-pay in the policy I am on."
In his letter to Humana President and CEO David Ramsey, Rockefeller wrote, "As you know, this is the second time in less than a year that a contract dispute between a private Medicare Advantage plan and our state's hospitals has jeopardized coverage for seniors." He was referring to last year's dispute between Humana and Thomas.
"The recent announcement that negotiations have ended between Humana and CAMC again puts seniors in the middle of your dispute. Fortunately, the parties involved were able to reach a resolution in January, and I am hopeful that, by working together, you can do so again.
"It is unacceptable for seniors to be put in the middle of your ongoing dispute and continually left in limbo," Rockefeller added.
John Givson<co >, a senior citizen in Sutton, said Wednesday that for people having a difficult time in life, the dispute is unfair to patients.
"You spend two or three or four days in the hospital and you could be out $4,000 or $5,000," he said. "I don't understand how Medicare, our governor and the people of West Virginia can put up with this. There are a lot of people who have depended on CAMC hospitals for 10 years or more."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.