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Weekly health insurance roundup: December 13 - 17, 2010 Posted: December 17th, 2010

By Maryalene LaPonsie

Health insurance companies stayed in the holiday spirit last week. Some insurers expanded programs while others rolled out freebies. Of course, not everyone was feeling jolly, particularly Blue Cross Blue Shield members in Iowa.

Aetna is ready to serve you…unless you live in Albany

Everyone wants an insurance company that cares; one that really listens when you call. While it seems like every insurer brags that it has the compassion of Mother Teresa, Aetna has the awards to back up its claims. For the second year in a row, it has been recognized by J.D. Powers and Associates for offering subscribers "An Outstanding Customer Services Experience." Bravo Aetna!

Of course, you can't please everyone, and there isn't a whole lot cheering coming from Albany, New York. Aetna has announced that it is dropping the Albany Medical Center, a regional trauma hospital, from its network as of February 5, 2011. Apparently, doctors at the hospital were asking for a 100 percent increase in reimbursement and the company wasn't feeling, well, quite that generous, according to the Albany Times Union newspaper.

Blue Cross Blue Shield is helping you keep your resolutions

After the excess of the holidays, it is time to begin our national New Year's diet. To make this be the year you actually lose that muffin top, a duo of Blue Cross Blue Shield affiliates in Pennsylvania are offering wellness initiatives. First up is Highmark which is offering Wellness Where You Live programs for members and non-members alike at 100 sites across the state. Then, Independence Blue Cross is launching a Healthy Steps social media initiative for facebook junkies everywhere.

And if you don't have time to get that scratchy throat looked at in the midst of your holiday shopping, office parties and family events, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has just what the doctor ordered. The Online Care Anywhere service provides all Minnesotans with the opportunity to attend a live, virtual office visit with experienced physicians and nurse practitioners. Medical advice from health care professionals is now just a click away.

Finally, things aren't so merry in Iowa where WellMark Blue Cross and Blue Shield will be showered with the wrong kind of attention. After the company raised rates by 18 percent last spring and announced another 11 percent hike for 2011, state regulators scheduled a public hearing on the increases, according to the Des Moines Register newspaper. The company doesn't plan to attend, but we are sure that those that do won't have any trouble getting subscribers to tell them what they really think.

UnitedHealthCare expands Pharmacy Saver program for seniors

Medicare patients might have a little more money in their pocket thanks to an expansion of UnitedHealthcare's Pharmacy Saver program. Now, plan participants will have access to hundreds of generic prescriptions with co-pays as low as $2 at Target, H-E-B, Hy-Vee, Publix, Food Lion, Bloom, Harveys and Sweetbay Supermarket.

Molina Healthcare helps plan a party

Residents of St. Charles, Missouri were treated a little holiday cheer courtesy of Molina Healthcare and other area organizations. The insurer joined the City of St. Charles and five non-profits to host the third annual Helping Hands for the Holidays event. In addition to a hot buffet meal, participants were treated to free dental screenings and health care check-ups, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's website.

AmeriChoice health insurance gets in the game

Memphis Grizzlies Coach Lionel Hollins and player Zach Randolph teamed up with AmeriChoice health insurance and other sponsors to hold the Bike Buddies Extravaganza. The basketball celebrities were on hand to pass out bikes, helmet, locks and books to needy kids.