UCare is discounting premiums for about 100,000 seniors in its Medicare Advantage health plans as people use less health care with COVID-19.

The Minneapolis-based health plan said Tuesday it is discounting premiums by 20% for the months of July and August while eliminating copays for Medicare primary care and mental health clinic services during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Premium discounts at UCare also apply to about 40,000 people who buy individual health plans from the insurer.

Eagan-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota announced Monday it would eliminate certain fees when Medicare Advantage subscribers seek health care. Minnetonka-based UnitedHealthcare said earlier this month it would remove cost-sharing fees in Medicare Advantage plans through the end of September.

"We are concerned that our members — including older and more vulnerable members — are forgoing needed care at this time," Mark Traynor, the UCare chief executive, said in a statement. "We want members to access essential care, and we are pleased to enhance providers' ability to provide that care."

Hospitals and outpatient treatment centers across Minnesota canceled elective surgeries beginning in mid-March to conserve resources for an expected surge of COVID-19 patients, and only recently have begun resuming the procedures. In addition, some patients have opted to cancel or delay care due to concerns about being exposed to the novel coronavirus, according to an April survey conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota's State Health Access Data Assistance Center.

The survey found that 58.7% of U.S. adults said the pandemic hindered their access to health care services, either by way of personal decisions on seeking care or cancellations by health care providers. Roughly one-fifth of those surveyed said they postponed scheduling a health care appointment due to concerns about exposure to the coronavirus, according to the report, which found exposure concerns prompted some to cancel appointments, as well.

Like other health insurers, UCare previously announced it would waive copay, coinsurance and deductibles for COVID-19 testing and hospital care. The insurer said Tuesday that those policies are continuing.

UCare said it's also providing $25,000 grants to small health care providers and community clinics "to build infrastructure during COVID-19."

Christopher Snowbeck • 612-673-4744

Twitter: @chrissnowbeck