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Weekly Health Insurance Round-Up: August 23-27, 2010 Posted: August 27th, 2010

By Peter Andrew

Health insurance companies have been much in the news again this week. There's been a new product launch, a proposed merger that's received a mixed reception, a day of events to promote volunteerism -- and much, much more.

Aetna rallies to the aid of Tennessee flood victims

Aetna responded swiftly to help members who found themselves caught up in the recent Tennessee flood disaster. Many of the insurer's policyholders were evacuated at very short notice, and some understandably lost their membership cards in the confusion, or forgot to take them along. Additionally, many people were unable to access their usual hospitals, physicians and pharmacies.

As part of an extensive program of immediate assistance, Aetna launched a number of toll-free helplines, relaxed its prescription filling rules, and offered to replace lost or damaged pharmaceuticals that had been dispatched by its mail-order pharmacy service. It also extended its Employee Assistance Program to all affected plan sponsors, whether or not they are enrolled in the program.

Aetna sues LabCorp

Aetna has filed a lawsuit against Laboratory Corporation of America, a Burlington, NC-based provider of laboratory tests and services. The insurer alleges -- among other charges -- unfair competition and violation of trade secret laws, and is seeking both monetary damages and equitable relief. LabCorp responded, saying that the allegations were "wholly without merit", and would be vigorously defended.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware merger under fire

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware's proposed merger with Pittsburgh-based Highmark, Inc., has received a less than enthusiastic welcome from Delaware Governor Jack Markell, who highlighted possible risks, and urged caution. BCBSD expects the move to drive down administrative costs and provide it with capital to invest in technology projects.

Governor Markell's response contrasts sharply with that of the state's insurance commissioner, Karen Weldin Stewart, who was quoted by DelawareOnline as saying: "We can't live in the Dark Ages. We have to partner up. We're too small."

Molina Healthcare tackles Idaho Medicaid issues

The governor of Idaho, the head of Molina Healthcare, and the director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare came to the table together to hammer out solutions to the recent problems that have dogged Idaho Medicaid. The program has encountered many issues since its administration was taken over by the insurer, according to an August 23 press release from the governor's office.

Reportedly, everyone came away from the meeting feeling more positive, and Mario Molina, president and CEO of Molina Healthcare, told a press conference afterwards: "We are very committed to do what is necessary to fix the system...we will devote the time, energy and resources that are necessary."

UnitedHealthcare's new health plan saves money in Chicago

UnitedHealthcare has launched a new health plan for people in Chicago and Northwest Indiana, according to a MarketWatch report of August 23. The product, called "UnitedHealthcare Core", allows members to save on their out-of-pocket costs when they use a local, designated, in-network provider, but leaves them free to source care from outside the network. It can be paired with an HSA, and provides for preventative care and consultations with specialists without the need for referrals in writing.

UnitedHealthcare promotes "Do Good. Live Well" events

Meanwhile, on August 28, also in Chicago, UnitedHealthcare hosted a day of events that promoted the benefits of volunteerism. Those benefits deliver real gains both for the communities that are enhanced, and for the individuals who participate as volunteers.

One of the main crowd-pleasers was a free health fair, which gave visitors access to fitness advisers, health screening services and healthy cooking demonstrations. Another provided a platform for the Greater Chicago Food Depository to attract new volunteers.