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Health insurance news roundup: August 9-13, 2010 Posted: August 13th, 2010

By Peter Andrew

Aetna reacts to health reform, AmeriChoice teams up with Muppets, and UnitedHealthcare partners with Patriots but fumbles Florida Hospital contract. Here are some of the week's top stories.

Health insurance news roundup: August 9-13, 2010

News media have been crammed this week with stories about health insurance companies. These have included two separate health promotion initiatives - one of which involves Sesame Street - and a variety of business stories. The first story concerns fallout from the Affordable Care Act.

Aetna to halt new policies for children in most states

Aetna revealed August 12 that it would cease to write new individual health insurance policies for children in 27 states starting October 1. The move should ultimately apply in four other states, but the company will announce later the dates on which the ban will become effective in those. Those who have existing coverage are not affected, and their policies remain renewable.

Child-only policies are often sold to poorer families who can only afford to cover their children. So it's ironic that Aetna's announcement was in response to the Affordable Care Act, which was supposed to help precisely such families. The company argues that guaranteed issue coverage for children with pre-existing conditions would encourage parents to enroll their kids in the system when they get sick, then take them back out again when they become better. That, says Aetna, could drive up premiums to unaffordable levels.

Aetna was also in the news August 10 when it unveiled plans to address racial and ethnic disparities in health care provision. The company says that it has created a new, senior position - reporting directly to its chief medical officer - that will focus on these inequalities, and seek to address the challenges they present. The first person to occupy the post will be Wayne Rawlins, M.D.

AmeriChoice promotes street-smart health

AmeriChoice-UnitedHealthcare is working with the makers of Sesame Street to promote healthy eating among families - and especially children - who live in low-income households, according to Newsweek, August 10. "Food for thought: eating well on a budget" is a multimedia resource in English and Spanish that features a DVD, nutritional guides for parents and recipes that appeal to children. It's due to debut in December.

Amerigroup plans investor day

Amerigroup Corporation announced August 9 that it will be hosting an investor day at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on September 17. For those who can't make it in person, the event is going to be webcast live via the company's website, and interested parties can log on from about 8:20 a.m., which is 10 minutes before the official start time. Those who miss the live broadcast can replay it at any time up until October 17. Amerigroup, a Fortune 500 Company, coordinates services for individuals in publicly funded health care programs.

UnitedHealthcare kicks off healthy living initiative with New England Patriots

UnitedHealthcare has teamed up with the NFL's New England Patriots to bring football fans important messages about nutrition and exercise. The insurer is sponsoring the Patriots' training camp this year, and the intention is to raise awareness of healthy living principles among visitors to the Foxborough, Mass., site. Robert Kraft, the Patriots' chairman and CEO, remarked:

The New England Patriots are proud to have teamed up with UnitedHealthcare at training camp this year to kick off the 2010 season. It is easy to partner with an organization whose focus is to promote health and well-being through nutrition and daily exercise.

... but remains at loggerheads with Florida Hospital

Fans of medical TV shows like House and Royal Pains will be familiar with the brinkmanship that sometimes occurs when insurers and hospitals fail to agree on the renewal of a contract. On television, these always end well, but the Orlando Sentinel warned August 13 that things could turn out differently if a real-life dispute between UnitedHealthcare and the Florida Hospital network isn't swiftly resolved.

The Sentinel says that up to 400,000 UnitedHealthcare policyholders in Central Florida could - except in cases of emergency - be denied in-network rates at some 18 local hospitals if the two sides fail to reach an agreement quickly.