Inside these posts: Health insurance

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McRaith: New health law protects more consumers

Michael T. McRaith in 2009. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)

A year after the health care overhaul was signed into law by President Barack Obama, the state’s top insurance official says consumers in Illinois are better protected against insurance company business practices that threatened their health benefits.

Michael McRaith, Illinois insurance director, said Wednesday morning that Illinois was becoming a market dominated by just a few “for-profit” insurance companies such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, which is a mutual company owned by policyholders. Get the full story »

GAO: Half of health insurance appeals successful

Don’t take no for a final answer when a health insurer rejects a claim and leaves behind an unpaid medical bill. As many as 50 percent of some appeals prompt insurers to reverse their decisions, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. Get the full story »

U.S. judge refuses to halt new health care law

A U.S. judge Thursday put on hold his ruling that President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul was unconstitutional, allowing the White House to continue implementing the landmark legislation for now.

But U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson failed to dispel widespread uncertainty about the fate of the highly-politicized health care reform law. He gave the Obama administration seven days to ask an appeals court to quickly review his Jan. 31 ruling and said the law could be declared void if it failed to meet the deadline. Get the full story »

Illinois employers get $41M for health coverage

A new federal report shows employers in Illinois received nearly $41 million last year to help them maintain health care coverage for early retirees. The federal funding comes from a program created by the Affordable Care Act, the national health care law. In Illinois, 337 employers have been accepted into the early retiree program. Get the full story »

Illinois Blue Cross settles allegations that it denied sick kids coverage

Illinois’ largest health insurance company will pay $25 million to settle allegations that it denied coverage to sick children in need of nursing care by “fraudulently” shifting their claims to Illinois’ Medicaid program, state and federal prosecutors said this morning.

The settlement, reached by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, follows several years of complaints from patients and their families. The patients reached out to Madigan’s office after their claims were denied by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois.

The cost of the medical care, which included so-called private-duty nurses for sick children and other ill patients, should have been covered by Illinois Blue Cross, but instead was shifted to Medicaid at a cost of nearly $12 million, prosecutors said. The claims were denied based on “internal, undisclosed guidelines that were more restrictive than the language provided to patients in plan policy materials,” Madigan’s office said. Get the full story »

Humana to set up wellness venture in Chicago

Humana Inc. said it will set up a joint venture to provide employers and health plan members with new wellness programs and services that reward workers for staying healthy.

Louisville-based Humana, one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies, said it will create a new company, based in Chicago, with Discovery Holdings of South Africa. Discovery owns the Vitality brand of wellness programs and services which work somewhat like airline miles in how they reward workers to stay healthy. 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 »

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 »

Durbin joins growing support for deficit plan

Defying expectations, a bipartisan majority of President Barack Obama’s deficit commission has rallied behind the panel’s controversial deficit-slashing proposals.

A key Obama ally, liberal Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, endorsed the plan Thursday night, joining two of the Senate’s most conservative Republicans. Get the full story »

McDonald’s defends mini-med insurance

Senate Democrats accused McDonald’s Corp. of offering hourly workers a bad deal on health insurance, prompting a strong defense from a top McDonald’s executive who disclosed fresh details about the chain’s benefits. The exchanges came at a hearing Wednesday that was part of a Senate committee investigation into “mini-med” insurance policies, a type of limited health plan favored by retailers and restaurant chains. Get the full story »

New health insurance spending rules finalized

New U.S. health insurance spending rules aimed at ensuring more customer dollars go toward medical care were finalized on Monday, ending a source of uncertainty for investors in the sector.

Though the limits are mandated in the new health care law, insurers such as Aetna Inc. and WellPoint Inc. did win some concessions from the U.S. government surrounding implementation of the rules and shares of health insurers mostly rose. Get the full story »

Humana to buy Concentra in $790M deal

Health insurer Humana Inc. plans its first broad foray into health care delivery in nearly two decades with its intended purchase of Concentra Inc. in an approximately $790 million cash deal announced Monday. Get the full story »

Aon shows growth; posts 28% gain in 3Q earnings

Aon Corp. reported a 28 percent gain in third-quarter earnings from continuing operations, attributing part of it to a 4 percent revenue increase in its consulting unit, but its earnings missed estimates.

The company’s net income attributable to shareholders totaled $144 million, or 51 cents a share, compared with $120 million, or 41 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Total revenue of $1.8 billion was flat with the year-ago quarter. Get the full story »

Cigna 3Q profit falls 6.7% on costs

Managed care company Cigna Corp. said Friday its third-quarter profit fell 6.7 percent on higher medical costs and losses from the company’s reinsurance segment. The Philadelphia insurer says it earned $307 million, or $1.13 per share, in the three months that ended Sept. 30. That’s down from the $329 million, or $1.19 per share, in the same period last year. Get the full story »

CEOs wary of health costs, end of Bush tax cuts

U.S. chief executives are becoming more confident about the economy, though many worry high employee health care costs and the possible end of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans could hurt businesses.

Vistage International, an organization for chief executives, said on Monday its confidence index edged up to 95.1 in the third quarter from 94.4 in the prior three months. The index is 12 percent above its year-earlier level of 84.9.

The survey, which was conducted between September 14-24 and covered about 1,800 CEOs of small-to-medium sized companies, found that 92 percent of the respondents expected health costs to rise as companies implement the healthcare reform plan, designed to provide insurance to 32 million Americans who don’t have coverage. Get the full story »