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Their SilverSneakers won't get them into the YMCA next year, but some seniors in Tennessee will maintain free access to the facilities through a Medicare Advantage program offered by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

BlueCross will offer American Specialty Health's Silver&Fit program as the sole fitness offering for its Medicare Advantage members beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

"We looked at what our members were sharing and their concerns, and the YMCA is very important to them," said BlueCross spokesperson Alison Sexter. "We wanted to make sure they maintained access to the facility of their choice."

The benefit will be available to about 198,000 people enrolled in BlueCross senior care programs, including Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, and those who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

The Silver&Fit network will provide BlueCross Medicare Advantage members access to Tennessee YMCAs after the end of the year. SilverSneakers, a national fitness program for seniors that provided free access to the YMCA locations across the state for those 65 and older, was cut by Tennessee YMCAs after the two organizations failed to negotiate a deal.

The Tennessee Alliance of YMCAs said in a statement that the missions of the for-profit company that owns SilverSneakers and that of the nonprofit YMCA were ultimately incompatible.

"The Y will work very hard to make sure that all seniors have an opportunity to continue to enjoy the services and the social interaction at the Y that has made it such a treasured place for seniors to spend time," they said.

Silver&Fit is available to BlueCross Medicare Advantage members at no additional cost. The program offers access to a variety of fitness centers as well as home fitness kits, online and recorded fitness classes, a library of online wellness resources, and more.

Silver&Fit first started contracting Tennessee YMCAs in their network in 2014 and have continued to add additional Tennessee YMCAs and other fitness centers.

"We value the relationships we've built with BlueCross Medicare Advantage members over the years," said Ted Cornelius, executive director of the Tennessee State Alliance of YMCAs. "We welcome the opportunity to continue those relationships through 2020 and beyond as part of the Silver&Fit network."

Contact Mary Fortune at mfortune@timesfreepress.com or (423) 757-6653. Follow her on Twitter at @maryfortune.

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