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Weekly health insurance roundup: July 19-23, 2010 Posted: July 23rd, 2010

By Maryalene LaPonsie

Amerigroup, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Molina Healthcare and UnitedHealthcare all make an appearance in this week's health insurance round-up. Learn which insurer is being accused of unfair premium hikes and who is planning to change coverage in Florida.

Weekly health insurance roundup: July 19-23, 2010

It's never a dull moment in the world of health insurance. Amerigroup takes a leadership role on health reform, while Molina Healthcare gets the stamp of approval on its free hotline. UnitedHealthcare gets in a skirmish in Florida while Consumers Union points its big guns directly at Blue Cross Blue Shield. Take a closer look at what's been keeping the nation's largest insurers busy this week:

Amerigroup responds to health reform

As insurance companies scramble to keep ahead of health care reform, Amerigroup has announced plans to create an Office of Health Reform Integration. The new office is just one part of the company's plan to ensure that changes mandated by health reform are rolled out seamlessly. While the new office will be headed by Maureen McDonnell, whose previous experience was political consulting, Amerigroup is also bringing on board two health care executives to coordinate quality management and health care economics.

Jeers and cheers for Blue Cross Blue Shield

Blue Cross Blue Shield must feel as though it has a giant target on its back. Perhaps it does, as the nation's largest insurer, providing coverage for 1 in 3 Americans carrying private plans. After several high profile gaffes, including a botched rate increase in California, the company seems to have had more than its fair share of bad press lately.

Now the venerable Consumers Union is claiming non-profit Blue Cross Blue Shield companies have been unnecessarily stockpiling money while at the same time increasing premiums. The consumer advocacy group points to examples in Arizona and Oregon as proof of the insurer's questionable practices.

In those states, Blue Cross Blue Shield holds surpluses of $717.1 million and $565.2 million, respectively. At the same time, individual health plan policyholders have seen their premiums increase by as much as 25 percent. Spokespeople for Blue Cross Blue Shield insist that the reserves are necessary to absorb future costs expected to be incurred as health care reform rolls out.

Meanwhile, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts has teamed up with the Massachusetts Special Olympics to send 50 athletes to the 2010 National Games. The company has been a Special Olympics partner for several years. Thank you to Blue Cross Blue Shield for giving us a reason to cheer!

Molina Healthcare is ready to take Your call

Aching back? Throbbing headache? Strange blister?

If you're a Molina Healthcare member, you're in luck. The company's Nurse Advice Hotline is open for business 24/7. The service, staffed by registered nurses, receives an astounding 200,000 calls per year and can handle questions in 20 different languages.

Now the hotline has earned a Health Call Center Accreditation from the URAC accrediting agency. Free help was always just a phone call away for Molina Healthcare subscribers, but apparently, free just got better.

UnitedHealthcare expands service in California, shrinks it in Florida

Good news in California! UnitedHealthcare has entered into an agreement with Integrated Healthcare Holdings Inc. in Orange County. The agreement will open access for policyholders to four local hospitals: Chapman Medical Center, Coastal Community Hospital, Western Medical Center Anaheim and Western Medical Center Santa Ana.

Bad news in Florida! The 488,500 UnitedHealthcare members in Florida may no longer be able to use Florida Hospital after August 15, 2010. The hospital has signaled its intent not to renew its contract with UnitedHealthcare unless the insurer increases its reimbursement amounts. So far, the insurance company doesn't seem inclined to comply with the request.