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Weekly health insurance roundup: October 4-8, 2010 Posted: October 8th, 2010

By Maryalene LaPonsie

It's nothing but good news for Blue Cross Blue Shield and UnitedHealthcare in this week's health insurance roundup, while Aetna found itself in the crosshairs over health insurance rate hikes and billing violations. We've got all the latest in the world of health insurance company news.

Aetna under fire over rate hikes, but also expands software program

This week the New York State Insurance Department announced that Aetna had paid an $850,000 fine for improperly explaining benefits to its subscribers and failing to pay claims promptly.

Then, the California Department of Insurance took Aetna to task for its ever increasing health insurance rates. However, an independent review confirmed that the insurer's numbers were sound and within the 70 percent medical loss ratio established by California law. As a result, some Aetna subscribers in California may see health insurance premium increases that will average 18.7 percent.

In other news, Aetna has added features to its Aetna RxCheck program that seeks to reduce abuse by those on pain medications and opioids. The computer program analyzes prescription claims and alerts physicians to possible drug interactions or misuse issues.

Blue Cross Blue Shield affiliate news

In New Hampshire, the Anthem Blue Cross affiliate topped the list of best private health insurers in the country. That's according to the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

In the Midwest, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota is reviewing how where you live can affect your longevity. The company analyzed data by zip code and discovered that if you live in an area with a higher median income, you can expect to live longer. For every $10,000 increase in a neighborhood's median income, you can expect your life expectancy to extend by a full year.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee is now the proud sponsor of its own Pandora radio station. Pandora is an Internet radio application that allows users and sponsors to create customized stations that can be accessed online or using a smart phone. The Blue Cross Blue Shield station features three music options--from mellow to high-energy--intended to help listeners get up and off the couch.

UnitedHealthcare is connecting patients with care

What if you come down with the flu in Florida? Or twist your ankle in the Adirondacks? Thanks to UnitedHealthcare, you can now whip out your smart phone and have instant access to the company's database of medical providers. The insurance company has launched DocGPS 2.0, a free downloadable app for iPhone, Android and Blackberry users. For those on vacation, finding a participating doctor, hospital or urgent care center is just a touch away.

UnitedHealthcare subscribers will also have new clinic options beginning November 1, 2010. The company announced a partnership with the Mayo Clinic. Policyholders will have access to physician groups and hospitals associated with the clinic in the Jacksonville, Scottsville/Phoenix and Rochester, Minnesota markets.

Bonus round: Other health insurance news this week

The Department of Health and Human Services issued waivers to 30 health insurance companies who argued that they could not spend 80 to 85 cents per premium dollar on health care costs.