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WellChoice Announces Medicare+Choice HMO Premium Reductions Due to Medicare Modernization Act of 2003

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 30, 2004--WellChoice, Inc. (NYSE: WC) today announced that its primary operating subsidiary, Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, has applied to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for approval to lower monthly premiums on its Medicare+Choice HMO, Senior Plan, beginning March 1, 2004.

The Medicare Modernization Act passed by Congress late last year increased federal reimbursements to health plans under the Medicare+Choice program and helped to offset some of the geographic inequity in reimbursement levels that has disadvantaged Medicare HMO beneficiaries in Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester and Rockland counties over the past several years. Rates for the program are set on a county-by-county basis.

Empire currently offers a Medicare+Choice HMO to eligible Medicare beneficiaries in New York City, as well as Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester and Rockland counties. In Westchester and Rockland counties, the current $95 monthly premium will be reduced to $0. The new rate for eligible Medicare beneficiaries residing in Nassau County will be $22.00, a reduction of 84% from the current premium of $140. In Suffolk County the new rate will be $62, and represents a 56% decrease from current rates. WellChoice will also use the additional funding in New York City to enhance the benefits provided under the company's two Medicare+Choice HMO plans offered in those counties.

WellChoice, Inc. is the parent company of the largest health insurer in the State of New York, based on PPO and HMO membership. WellChoice, through its Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield subsidiaries, has the exclusive right to use the Blue Cross and Blue Shield names and marks in 10 downstate New York counties and one or both of these names and marks in selected counties in upstate New York. WellChoice offers a broad portfolio of products, including managed care and traditional indemnity products, and has a varied customer base including large group, middle-market and small group, individual, and national accounts. Additional information on WellChoice can be found at http://www.wellchoice.com.

Cautionary Statement

Some of the information contained in this press release is forward-looking, including statements relating to future financial or business results. Forward-looking information is based on management's estimates, assumptions and projections and is subject to significant uncertainties and other factors, many of which are beyond the company's control. Important risk factors could cause future results to differ materially from those estimated by management. Those risks and uncertainties include but are not limited to: the company's ability to accurately predict health care costs and to manage those costs through underwriting criteria, quality initiatives and medical management, product design and negotiation of favorable provider reimbursement rates; the company's ability to maintain or increase the company's premium rates; possible reductions in enrollment in the company's health insurance programs or changes in membership mix; the regional concentration of the company's business; the impact of health care reform and other regulatory matters including the impact of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003; the outcome of litigation; and the potential loss of the New York City account. For a more detailed discussion of these and other important factors that may materially affect WellChoice, please see the company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the discussion of risk factors and historical results of operations and financial condition in its Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2002, and its Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q for the quarters ended March 31, 2003, June 30, 2003 and September 30, 2003.

CONTACT: WellChoice, Inc.
Deborah Loeb Bohren, 212-476-3552
Lisa Greiner, 212-476-7011

SOURCE: WellChoice, Inc.

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