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Weekly health insurance roundup: January 3 - 7, 2010 Posted: January 7th, 2011

By Maryalene LaPonsie

It's the start of the New Year, but it is the same old song and dance for many health insurance companies. Health insurance rate increases, fines from state agencies and quality care initiatives all helped usher in 2011. We'll give you all the latest on Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, UnitedHealthcare and Amerigroup.

Aetna is honored as a good citizen

They are singing Aetna's praises in El Paso, Texas. The insurer was selected for the 2010 Corporate Appreciation of the Year award from the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Its support of Chamber seminars and other small business outreach activities attracted the attention of business leaders and accolades during the annual Entrepreneurial Spirit Awards.

Blue Cross Blue Shield decides not to make friends

The biggest Blue Cross Blue Shield news comes compliments of Blue Shield of California. After raising health insurance rates in October and January, the company announced the need for more double digit hikes in March 2011. When it is all said and done, some policyholders will reportedly see their premiums increase 59 percent in fewer than six months, according to a CNNMoney report. Blue Shield members will be excused if they take the company off next year's Christmas card list.

Meanwhile, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois is backtracking on a policy change that wasn't making it many friends across the state. The company was planning to require that its members receive pre-authorization for a wide variety of mental health services. However, after being reminded by health professionals and the Illinois insurance commissioner that the requirement may violate federal law, Blue Cross and Blue Shield changed its mind, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Finally, we head to the Northwest where Regence earned rave reviews for its myRegence.com website. The company, which serves 3 million Blue Cross Blue Shield members, won more than 20 awards for the consumer-focused site.

UnitedHealthcare understands what you really want

When you are in any type of business, it pays to know your customers. UnitedHealthcare participated in a study of family caregivers to see how best to serve those helping with the health care of a loved one. The results? Web-based and mobile technology got the thumbs up for saving time, reducing stress and coordinating care more effectively, according to a UnitedHealthcare report.

Then, the country's No. 1 chronic disease is in the crosshairs as the health insurance company sets its sights on type 2 diabetes. UnitedHealthcare has announced plans to launch a diabetes prevention program in Rhode Island sometime in 2011. The program will focus on pre-diabetes individuals to help them create healthy habits and avoid the costly chronic illness, according to a report in Diabetes Health magazine.

The news wasn't quite so good in Florida where the state fined Unitedhealthcare $1.3 million for improperly denying or reducing speech-therapy services for children on Medicaid, The Miami Herald reported. The company disputes the charge and vows to appeal the decision.

Amerigroup health insurance gets in on the action

Apparently not wanting to leave UnitedHealthcare to take the Florida heat all on its own, Amerigroup Community Care was also the recipient of a state fine. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration fined the company $2.7 million for denying or reducing benefits for 531 children, according to The Miami Herald.