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Weekly health insurance roundup: August 2-6, 2010 Posted: August 6th, 2010

By Maryalene LaPonsie

This week Aetna heads for the clouds, Blue Cross NC stands out against cancer, and UnitedHealthcare gives big to Minnesota kids. Read on to find out what's what in the medical insurance industry for the start of August.

Weekly health insurance roundup: August 2-6, 2010

After a series of over-the-top rate hikes and insurance company gaffes, this week's health insurance roundup is a refreshing change of pace. Between UnitedHealthcare's donation to a pediatric hospital and Blue Cross Blue Shield's honoring of wounded veterans, we have lots of good news to share. Let's start with medical insurance giant Aetna…

Aetna has its head in the clouds

If you are not familiar with the idea of 'cloud' computing, you likely will be soon. The concept is the latest in data storage and refers to companies keeping files in off-site servers instead of on their actual computers. Anyone who has ever streamed music or videos from the Internet has interacted with cloud computing. When you stream music, you aren't downloading the file to your computer but rather accessing information stored elsewhere.

In Aetna's case, it is partnering with IBM to create a cloud-based program that will provide analytical services for patients' electronic medical records. In plain English, that means that doctors will have a more complete picture of your health, better enabling them to make the right medical decision. Instead of the hospital maintaining one set of records for you and your doctor maintaining separate paperwork, all health professionals will have access to all information relevant to your care.

Assurant offers more options

Residents in a handful of states now have more medical insurance options, compliments of Assurant. The company has rolled out Accident and Critical Illness supplemental health insurance plans. These feature cash pay-outs with no deductible or co-insurance required. Accident plans are available in 14 states while people in 11 states can take advantage of the Critical Illness insurance. Up next? Dental plans are expected in September.

Blue Cross Blue Shield teams up with a big loser

A 'Biggest Loser' that is. Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield in New York has joined forces with Bob Harper, buff fitness trainer from NBC's "Biggest Loser" program, to honor our nation's wounded warriors. At a Yankee Stadium ceremony, the health insurance company and the fitness guru recognized the Disabled Sports Wounded Warrior Project which offers support and resources to severely wounded service members.

Meanwhile, in upstate New York, Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield has been struggling with record medical insurance applications and claims data. With more than 100 million claim and member records, the insurer's Microsoft-based computer system has sagged under the strain. To streamline its data servers, the company is saying good-bye to Mr. Gates and hello to a new data storage program supplied by SAS.

Finally, down south, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina has been honored with the CEO Cancer Gold Standard accreditation. The designation reflects the many programs and resources offered by the company to reduce the risk of cancer among its employees and their family members.

UnitedHealthcare gives big

UnitedHealthcare announced this week that it was implementing a new electronic health record system. The initiative is expected to result in improve patient care and cost-effective medical insurance measures.

However, the feel good news of the week can be found in Minneapolis where the health insurance company directed $17.5 million to the Children's Foundation. As the largest single donation from UnitedHealthcare to a hospital organization, the gift comes as part of the insurer's "United Minnesota" initiative that seeks to give out $100 million during a 10 year period.

Thanks to UnitedHealthcare, children in the Twin Cities region will have access to 24 hour Level 1 trauma care at the Minneapolis campus for Children's Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota. We wish we had this type of news to share every week!