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Weekly Health Insurance Round-Up: September 13-17, 2010 Posted: September 17th, 2010

By Maryalene LaPonsie

Insurance companies are fighting disease and taking time to lend a helping hand. Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield and UnitedHealthCare are some of the names making news this week. We'll start with Aetna which is putting in overtime as the latest crusader against disease and chronic health conditions.

Aetna has its eye on obesity, cancer and Illinois's Medicaid program

One of the nation's largest insurers, Aetna, is launching programs to fight childhood obesity, breast cancer and ovarian cancer. First up is childhood obesity. Ten regional and national organizations are vying for grants of up to $50,000 from the Aetna Foundation. The insurer is asking the public to vote in an online poll that determines which group walks away with cash for their program.

Aetna is also financing the first ever population-based study about the use of genetic testing to determine a woman's risk of cancer. The landmark research project is being undertaken by Georgetown University and the University of South Florida in conjunction with the American Cancer Society. The two-year study will determine which women have access to genetic screening for breast and ovarian cancer and how those women use the screening information.

Finally, Aetna recently won the contract to provide a pilot program of Illinois Medicaid managed care services. Aetna Better Health of Illinois begins providing services on Jan. 1, 2011 and offers managed Medicaid benefits to enrollees, for older adult and adults with disabilities of Illinois' Integrated Care Program in several suburban counties.

Blue Cross Blue Shield sets its sights on hospital infections

Elsewhere in Illinois, Blue Cross Blue Shield is partnering with 23 hospitals in an effort to reduce hospital infections and medical mistakes. The Illinois Hospital Quality Initiative brings together Blue Cross Blue Shield, medical supply company CareFusion and hospitals to monitor patients and alert clinicians of potential problems. The program seems to be a win-win for patients and health providers. Each year, almost 100,000 people die from infections while hospitals pay $35 billion to treat infected patients.

UnitedHealthCare plays "chicken" with Florida Hospital

After a 10 month ordeal, residents of Florida finally have some closure from the protracted contract fight between UnitedHealthCare and Florida Hospital. After agreeing to an extension on the contract negotiations in August, the insurer went down to the wire on the September 14, 2010 deadline. A four-year deal was inked at 2 a.m. on Sept. 15, to ensure that 400,000 central Florida UnitedHealthCare customers could continue to use Florida Hospital facilities and doctors as in-network providers.

In other news, UnitedHealthCare's sister company, OptumHealth has established a 24-hour hotline to help California residents affected by the San Bruno gas explosion. The free service is available to anyone who needs help because of the disaster. Trained phone representatives are to provide referrals to appropriate community resources.