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Blue Cross out-of-network costs rising

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois health plan members are facing higher out-of-pocket costs if they see a physician not in the health plan’s network under a new doctor payment system being rolled out by its parent company.

Chicago-based Health Care Service Corp., the nation’s fourth-largest health plan, has begun basing its doctor fee schedules on the lower rates paid by the Medicare health insurance plan for the elderly. Exactly how much more a patient will pay for out-of-network will vary. But the AMA said Medicare rates are often 20 percent below the cost of providing medical-care. Get the full story »

Arthur J. Gallagher to acquire London firm

From Business Insurance | Itasca-based insurance brokerage Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. will acquire Woodbrook Underwriting Agencies, an agency in London, the company announced Wednesday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Allstate sues Citi, Deutsche Bank over securities

Allstate Corp. sued Citigroup Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG Friday, accusing the banks of misrepresenting risks on more than $385 million of mortgage securities it bought.

Allstate, the largest publicly traded U.S. home and auto insurer, has filed similar lawsuits against Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Get the full story »

Illinois plans 4th webinar on insurance exchanges

The Illinois Department of Insurance is planning the fourth in a series of web-based seminars on health insurance exchanges.

The nation’s new health care law requires the exchanges to be running in states by 2014. Individuals and small businesses would be able to shop for health coverage through the exchange. Get the full story »

Allstate sues JPMorgan over mortgage securities

Insurer Allstate Corp. sued JP Morgan Chase & Co. over more than $700 million in residential mortgage-backed securities — the latest to allege that a bank misled investors on the quality of mortgages underlying securities.

In the suit, filed Tuesday in state court in New York City, Allstate said JP Morgan and its entities sold Allstate a “toxic mix of loans given to borrowers that could not afford the properties” while telling Allstate it was buying a safe security. Get the full story »

Health insurers set to report decline in expenses

For the first time in 10 years, the U.S. health insurance industry is expected to report a decline in medical expenses, according to a new report by Weiss Ratings.

Weiss, an independent provider of insurance company ratings, based its findings on a study of 852 health insurers. Get the full story »

‘Owl vs. chihuahua’ most unusual pet insurance claim

Family photo of Chico, the 4-pound Chihuahua attacked by an owl. (AP Photo/Kalomiris family photo)

Little winter jackets for dogs aren’t just frivolous fashion accessories. They can save canines from, say, attacks by huge owls.

In the case of Chico, a 3-year-old chihuahua belonging to George and Dana Kalomiris of Crystal Lake, Ill., a winter jacket proved to be a lifesaver when a great horned owl tried to snatch the dog during a routine bathroom break.

According to the couple’s pet health insurance provider, Brea, Calif.-based Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI), the owl got tangled in the dog’s leash and eventually gave up its prey, but not before dragging Chico through the snow and piercing the dog’s side with one of its talons. The dog’s winter jacket protected him from a deeper wound by a second talon. Get the full story »

Allstate rates rise; patience with execs runs thin

Allstate CEO Tom Wilson in 2008. (Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune)

The average homeowners’ premium for Allstate Corp. customers rose by 7.1 percent in 2010, and Chief Executive Tom Wilson said Thursday that “you should expect to see it go up” in 2011 as well.

Wilson made the remark during an hour-long conference call with analysts and investors. He discussed the Northbrook-based auto and home insurer’s fourth-quarter results, which fell short of expectations. On a day when the wider markets were basically flat, Allstate stock closed down 3.6 percent to $31.20 a share, making it the day’s worst local stock performer.

Some analysts are becoming increasingly frustrated with Allstate’s management. Get the full story »

Allstate to shrink hedging program

Insurer Allstate Corp. plans to reduce the size of a hedging program designed to protect its $100 billion investment portfolio from steep declines.

The insurer spent “over several hundred million dollars” on the hedges in 2010 to shield the portfolio from sharp interest rate increases or a substantial drop in equities, Chief Executive Tom Wilson said on a conference call with analysts and investors Thursday. Get the full story »

State Farm retirees lose some medical coverage

Bloomington-based State Farm Insurance Cos. will stop providing supplemental medical coverage for its Medicare-eligible retirees next year in a cost-cutting move.

The company says it will instead help them find supplemental Medicare coverage and provide them with $200 a month to help. About 18,000 of the company’s 27,800 retirees are Medicare-eligible. Get the full story »

Allstate’s net income falls on catastrophe losses

Auto and home insurer Allstate says its net income fell sharply in the fourth quarter as an Arizona hailstorm caused it to pay out far more in catastrophe losses.

In the final three months of last year, the company earned $296 million, or 55 cents per share. That’s down from $518 million, or 96 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Get the full story »

Discover to buy Allstate bank deposits

Allstate Corp.  and Discover Financial Services said they had entered an agreement in which Discover will buy substantially all of Allstate’s bank deposits.

The companies called the deal a “multiyear distribution and marketing agreement.” As part of the agreement, Allstate agents and affiliates will offer personal savings and money-market accounts as well as other financial services to their customers through Discover. Get the full story »

Loews, CNA boosted by strong investment income

Loews Corp. reported its best quarter of the year as strong investment income from its biggest holding, CNA Financial, helped the conglomerate post a better-than-expected 16 percent increase in quarterly profit.

New York-based Loews, run by the billionaire Tisch family, said net investment income rose 20 percent to $711 million for the fourth quarter. Get the full story »

$18M paid out in prepaid funeral suit

An $18 million settlement to partially cover losses in prepaid funeral plans has been distributed to Illinois funeral directors after being tied up in a lawsuit for nearly two years.

The state Department of Insurance announced the distribution Friday, but its news release did not mention that the settlement terms had been changed. Get the full story »

Aon 4Q profit up as Hewitt deal pays off

Aon Corp. forecast continued margin improvement and posted a quarterly profit that topped Wall Street estimates, as the world’s largest insurance broker began to reap the benefits of its 2009 acquisition of Hewitt Associates.

Aon said restructuring related to the Hewitt integration was expected to help drive margin expansion. Get the full story »