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Weekly health insurance roundup: December 6 - 10, 2010 Posted: December 10th, 2010

By Maryalene LaPonsie

As the holiday season kicks into high gear, Aetna is doing some buying of its own. The health insurer is one of four companies making headlines this week. Keep reading to learn more about Aetna's present to itself as well as what's moving and shaking in the worlds of Blue Cross Blue Shield, UnitedHealthcare and Amerigroup.

Aetna wraps a ribbon on an early Christmas gift

With so many great deals in the stores during the Christmas shopping season, sometimes you just can't help but buy something for yourself too. That must have been how Aetna was feeling as it swooped in for a $500 million buy-out of Medicity, a health information technology company. The deal will usher the business into the Aetna fold while allowing the company to maintain its current leadership structure.

Even as Aetna focuses on its future, it paused for a moment to say good-bye to an important part of its past. James T. Lynn, former Aetna CEO, passed away at age 83. Lynn headed up the insurer from 1984-1992. Our condolences go out to the Lynn family and those at Aetna who have lost a friend and mentor.

Blue Cross Blue Shield is - surprise! - winning awards

The latest round of Blue Cross Blue Shield honors covers Kansas, South Carolina, Iowa and South Dakota. In Kansas, Blue Cross and Blue Shield hits a four-year winning streak for the Highest Customer Satisfaction Award from the Service Quality Measurement Group. In addition, the Kansas insurance company was the first Blue Cross affiliate to be designated as a World Class Certified Call Center by the group.

Then, a director of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina was the recipient of a number of awards by the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI). Jim Daley, who works in the insurer's information systems department, was recognized for his work to improve administrative efficiencies. Among his honors, Daley received the WEDI Distinguished Service Award and the Andrew H. Melczer Excellence in Volunteerism Award.

Finally, WellMark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa and South Dakota has reason to brag. Its MedicareBlueRx program received a perfect rating of five stars from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Of the 350 Medicare Part D plans that were reviewed by the CMS, only four managed to receive a five-star rating.

Of course, it's not all good news for Blue Cross Blue Shield. Two months after the Michigan affiliate was sued by the Justice Department for its 'most favored nation' contracts, now it's Georgia's turn to feel the heat. The Georgia Insurance Commissioner says that such clauses, which prevent health care providers from offering fees that are lower than those negotiated with Blue Cross Blue Shield, are 'unconscionable.' Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia apparently took offense at the idea and promptly sued the insurance commissioner, according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

UnitedHealthCare: Prepare for the lump of coal

Oh what would Santa think? NovoLog is one the most popular insulin drugs for diabetics. But it is apparently costing UnitedHealthcare a little too much money. The insurance giant is reclassifying the drug from Tier 1 to Tier 3, resulting in a 250 percent increase in the co-payment amount, according to a Los Angeles Times report. UnitedHealthcare is encouraging subscribers to use a similar medication HumaLog instead. And that begs the question: since when did insurance companies start trumping doctors when it comes to medication decisions?

In a move that might be intended to get back on Santa's "Nice List," UnitedHealthcare is rolling out a new plan to help those in need of temporary health insurance. The Short Term Medical Copay plan is being introduced in 18 states with more to follow.

Amerigroup health insurance shares its expertise

In a sneak peek of things to come, Amerigroup health insurance has announced that it will be participating in two upcoming health care conferences. It will make presentations at the Goldman Sachs Healthcare CEOs Conference on Jan. 6 and the 29th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference to be held on Jan. 11.