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Weekly health insurance roundup: January 17 - 21, 2011 Posted: January 21st, 2011

By Maryalene LaPonsie

Health care is something of a dance between providers and insurers. There are seemingly always contracts about to expire or cost negotiations taking place. Health insurance companies and providers go back and forth - each giving and taking a little. You might think of it as a health-plan tango with each side hoping to end up with the rose in the end. This week, Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield are front and center when it comes to dealing with providers.

Aetna steps off the dance floor

It looks like Aetna might be saying farewell to one of its dance partners - University of North Carolina (UNC) Health Care. A contract between the two is set to expire Feb. 5, and Aetna says that UNC is demanding unreasonable increases in its hospital and physician fees, according to a Capital Broadcast Company news report. Specifics were not released, but health care options for 10,000 Triangle-area Aetna customers hangs in the balance.

In other news, Aetna is offering its employer customers a deal on the Details Walkstation. Manufactured by a division of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Steelcase Inc., the Walkstation attaches a workstation onto a slow-moving treadmill to combine office work with exercise. Regardless, the discounted pricing is expected to be extended to individual Aetna customers later this year, according to a corporate press release. The Walkstation retails for $4,199.

Blue Cross Blue Shield says 'yes' to new care model and payment system

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield in New Jersey has enlisted 63 primary care physicians to provide coordinated care for 24,000 patients. These physicians will offer a 'patient centered medical home' through which all their care will be coordinated. That means that patients can expect physicians to keep closer tabs on their preventive care and wellness, according to a NJ.com news report.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts has deemed a new payment system a success. Instead of reimbursing physicians based upon how many tests and treatments their patients receive, the insurance company started making fixed payments based upon overall patient health, according to a report in Boston.com. Trial run program results show physicians being paid under the new system improved patient health more rapidly than those receiving traditional payments.

Speaking of offering incentives for better health, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota added a weight loss component to its Stop-Smoking Support Program. Recognizing that many smokers are concerned about weight gain after quitting, the program's goal is to fight not only nicotine addiction but also the battle of the bulge.

Finally, in a little bit of housekeeping, Mountain State Blue Cross Blue Shield announced it is changing its name. The new name, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia, reflects the company's 12-year association with Pennsylvania's Highmark Inc.

UnitedHealthcare had a happy 2010

The numbers are in, and UnitedHealthcare executives and stockholders must be smiling. The insurer's parent company, UnitedHealth Group, posted revenues of $94.2 billion in 2010, an 8 percent increase from the year before. It received a boost from fourth quarter revenues that totaled $24 billion.

Molina Healthcare gets a seal of approval

Everyone likes to get a pat on the back, and Molina Healthcare received just that from the National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA) last week. The non-profit group awarded Molina Healthcare of Florida its stamp of approval in the form of its New Health Plan Accreditation. The NCQA designation is valid for the next three years and reflects the health plan's adherence to quality standards.