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Weekly Health Insurance Round-Up: August 16-20, 2010 Posted: August 20th, 2010

By Peter Andrew

News editors can't resist stories about health insurance. Here are seven, including an important study that suggests that race may be a significant factor in the frequency of ER visits with asthma-related problems.

Aetna unveils study on asthma and race

At a conference by the Academy for Health Equity in Littleton, Colorado, August 18-20, Aetna clinicians reported on a new study exploring the incidence of asthma-related emergency room visits among different population groups. The findings were startling. At an annualized rate, African-American Aetna members were three times more likely to make such visits than whites, while Hispanic members were twice as likely.

Wayne Rawlins, M.D., M.B.A., Aetna's national medical director for racial and ethnic equality initiatives, commented that the availability and use of preventive care plays an important role in improving health care quality and decreasing medical costs for patients with asthma.

Aetna teams up with CVS to drive down prescription costs

American Medical News reported August 17 that Aetna and CVS Caremark have teamed up to drive down prescription drug costs. Under a 12-year strategic agreement, CVS Caremark will use its purchasing power to negotiate the best deals on pharmaceuticals for Aetna. It will also manage both Aetna's mail order pharmacy, and contracting for the insurer's retail pharmacy network.

Amerigroup's practical gift to good causes

Amerigroup announced August 19 that it would be donating over 100 "gently" used computers to 13 community organizations across Georgia. The good causes include those that help families, the unemployed, the hungry, and the homeless.

Francesca Gary, Amerigroup Georgia's chief operating officer, attended the announcement event in Atlanta, and remarked: "Amerigroup's mission is to help those who may need a little more assistance in their care, and we value the opportunity to give back to our communities..."

Blue Cross Blue Shield fraud investigations save $500 million

Blue Cross Blue Shield saved half a billion dollars nationwide in 2009 as a result of anti-fraud investigations, according to a August 16 story in Insurance & Technology magazine. The insurer calculates that its investigations over three years have returned 700 percent on its investment in such activities.

The insurance giant remains convinced that good old-fashioned detective work remains central to identifying fraud, but has found that new technologies are streamlining processes.

Molina Healthcare addresses issues with Idaho Medicaid

Molina Healthcare, which back in June took over management of claims processing for Idaho Medicaid, is addressing teething problems in the new systems. Some healthcare providers had complained that they were not receiving payments correctly.

Terry Bayer, Molina Healthcare's chief operating officer, was quoted: "We are committed to serving our client... we are bringing all necessary resources to resolve issues with the local providers and ensure success."

UnitedHealthcare boosts at-home health screening in Washington

UnitedHealthcare's at-home health screening kits are to be made available free to the employees (and their spouses) of over 700 companies across Washington state. The businesses are members of Affiliated Associations of America.

The kits allow people to test themselves for conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. UnitedHealthcare says that it is one of the first American health insurers to offer such kits as part of an employee wellness program.

UnitedHealthcare commits $1.95 million to promote walking

UnitedHealthcare revealed plans August 18 to give nearly $2 million to an American Heart Association initiative that encourages more people to walk. The money will be spent, in part, on establishing new walking paths across the nation. Some money will be put into upgrading the AHA's Start Walking Now website.