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Weekly health insurance roundup: November 29 - December 3, 2010 Posted: December 3rd, 2010

By Maryalene LaPonsie

We've got more of the latest news from Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield and UnitedHealthcare. Aetna is earning accolades and an investigation while Blue Cross Blue Shield is under fire in Connecticut. We also welcome HealthSpring to the weekly roundup as the company expands its services.

Aetna feels the heat

All eyes were on Aetna this week as a Congressional committee initiated an investigation of "mini-med" health insurance plans. The insurer is facing scrutiny from the government for offering what many consider 'junk' health plans that include limited benefits. However, Aetna can rest assured that it's not the only one in the hot seat - CIGNA is facing the same investigation.

In happier news, the health insurance company was named "International Benefits Provider of the Year" during the Expatriate Management and Mobility Awards. The honor recognizes the programs and services offered by Aetna for more than 400,000 members worldwide.

Blue Cross Blue Shield gets a Connecticut-style smack-down

The Connecticut Insurance Department said "I don't think so" to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The health insurance company had requested a 20 percent rate increase for its existing individual customers. In a nearly unprecedented move, the state of Connecticut deemed the rate increase excessive and flat-out rejected it. And there was much rejoicing.

In Indiana, Blue Cross Blue Shield affiliate WellPoint has announced plans to give more than $6 million to local charities through its Associate Giving Campaign. Those benefiting from the company's generosity include the American Cancer Society, American Red Cross, St. Jude's Children's Hospital and the United Way of America.

Not only is the company giving away millions, it has also put its annual holiday celebrations on hold to instead make $50,000 contributions to the USO and Feeding America. We dare other insurance companies to do the same.

Good deeds aren't limited to Indiana. In Maryland, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield is putting up $1.28 million to help alleviate the nursing shortage. It is offering the cash to nurses who are willing to return to the classroom for their Master's Degree and then work as professors to train the next generation of health care professionals.

Finally, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association gave its beleaguered Michigan affiliate a pat on the back. After weeks of bad news involving allegations of strong-arm tactics and lawsuits a-plenty, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan was recognized with BlueWorks Award for its Patient-Centered Medical Home program.

UnitedHealthCare expands in Wisconsin and threatens to contract in Rhode Island

Affinity Health Systems will be able to provide in-network services to the UnitedHealthcare's 1 million Wisconsin subscribers as of January 1, 2011. Meanwhile, 10,000 residents in Rhode Island might not be so lucky. UnitedHealthcare subscribers who are patients at Women & Infants and Kent Hospitals have been notified that a contract dispute may mean they are left in the cold when it comes time to pay claims. The insurer, however, remains confident that the disagreement will be resolved before the current contract expires on Dec. 31.

HealthSpring is 'a-coming to town

It'll be a few more weeks before Santa arrives, but HealthSpring is making its move now. The health insurance company has finished its acquisition of Bravo Health, an organization offering Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans. The $545 million purchase brings HealthSpring to town in 43 states and the District of Columbia.