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Weekly health insurance roundup: December 27 - 31, 2010 Posted: December 31st, 2010

By Maryalene LaPonsie

The first decade of the new millennium is now officially in the history books. With contracts expiring at the end of the year, Aetna and UnitedHealthcare spent the final week of 2010 negotiating last minute deals with hospitals to keep them in-network. However, for the New Jersey Blue Cross Blue Shield affiliate, there is no love lost between them and a state medical center.

Aetna goes coast to coast

They may be on opposite sides of the country, but Pennsylvania and California were both feeling the love from Aetna last week. Jefferson Health System, the largest health care system in Southeastern Pennsylvania, signed a two-year contract with the insurer. Meanwhile, Mountain View residents in the Golden State can breathe a sigh of relief. After concerns that the El Camino Hospital would be unable to reach agreement with Aetna, the two announced a resolution on Dec. 30.

Blue Cross Blue Shield is cutting ties

Things weren't nearly so rosy for Blue Cross Blue Shield providers. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire terminated its contract with Exeter Hospital. The insurer states that the hospital charges excessive fees in comparison to other area providers. While a state mandated grace period will allow Anthem members to use the hospital through March 2, a request by the hospital for a 60-day extension on the grace period was rejected.

Over in New Jersey, Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield is embroiled in a similar dispute. The health insurance company sent letters to members urging them not to use Bayonne Medical Center. Horizon asserts that the center, an out-of-network provider, charges exorbitant fees. In addition, the company takes issue with Bayonne Medical Center's practice of not charging patients for the cost of care not covered by their medical coverage. Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield sued the center in 2009 over the practice, saying it was unlawful and provided no incentive for patients to use in-network providers.

While other companies were involved in disputes, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts was polishing its list of 2011 resolutions. The company announced plans to revitalize its partnerships with community organizations and focus on four key areas:

  • Healthy Child Development
  • Education Enrichment
  • Healthy Environments and Family Nutrition
  • Sustainable Health Care

More than 150 community agencies partner with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts including the United Way, Special Olympics and Cradles to Crayons.

UnitedHealthcare isn't afraid to commit

Like Aetna, UnitedHealthcare made twin agreements in the last week of 2010 that will allow members to continue their care uninterrupted. An eleventh-hour agreement with Care New England ensures that women will be able to continue to use the popular Kent and Women & Infants maternity wards. The agreement also covers Butler Hospital. Then, in Kansas, Via Christi Health joined the UnitedHealthcare family with a year-end agreement.