Morning Briefing: Government slams Cigna for ‘widespread, systemic failures’

Government slams Cigna for ‘widespread, systemic failures’... Coal mining clean-up could cost Wyoming dear... Cruz missile fizzles over health cover gripe... AIG to spin-off mortgage indemnity unit...

Insurance News


by Richard Brown

Government slams Cigna for ‘widespread, systemic failures’
The U.S. government has suspended new enrolment in Cigna Corp’s Medicare Advantage health insurance and prescription plans, branding the company ‘a serious threat to enrollee health and safety’.

The temporary ban prevents Cigna from offering certain Medicare plans to new patients, following a probe into the health insurer’s methods of operation. Cigna’s revenue from U.S. insurance plans in 2015 hit $30.4 billion, or 4.1 percent overall market share, according to IBISWorld.

Cigna revealed the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) had suspended it from enrolling new customers or marketing plans for Cigna Medicare Advantage and standalone prescription drug plan contracts.

CMS charged Cigna with denying health care coverage and prescription drugs to patients who should have received them and of ‘widespread and systemic failures’. CMS also accused Cigna of maintaining shoddy documentation and neglecting to implement a risk assessment program, among other alleged violations.

Cigna is required to appoint an independent monitor to audit its handling of the matter. Last year Cigna had 502,000 patients enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans, or three percent of the market, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.  
Coal mining clean-up could cost Wyoming dear
Wyoming is under investigation by regulators for potentially allowing coal mining companies to waive clean-up insurance, putting state taxpayers on the hook for up to $900 million in costs.

A federal review by the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement is looking at two now-bankrupt Wyoming mining companies, Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources, to see if they have the means to cover several hundred million dollars’ worth of future clean-up costs.

The investigation hinges on self-bonding, permitted under a decades-old mining program, whereby some of America’s biggest coal firms could forego insurance on a portion of future mine clean-up costs.

Officials estimate that roughly $3.6 billion in self-bond liabilities could fall to taxpayers and "it is a big issue," Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell told Congress in December.

If federal officials find the companies have neglected their responsibilities, the regulators could assume oversight of the industry in Wyoming. Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality said it would respond within 10 business days, as required.

Cruz missile fizzles over health cover gripe
Less than 24 hours after Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz publically lambasted Obamacare for leaving his family bereft of health insurance, it seems the opposite was true.

Cruz last week bemoaned to college students in New Hampshire that he had no health insurance due to “the suffering that Obamacare has caused”.

In fact, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas had automatically moved him and his family onto a new policy, though it seems his broker had not told the senator the news. The Humana policy is, however, 50 percent higher than the Cruz family’s previous health insurance.
AIG to spin-off mortgage indemnity unit
American International Group Inc is set to off-load a chunk of its mortgage guarantee company, according to a person close to discussions. Bloomberg reports that AIG, under relentless pressure from outspoken investor Carl Icahn, plans a ‘partial spinoff’ of the unit, though will maintain a significant stake in the business. The unit is worth up to $3.5 billion, according to John Nadel, an analyst with Piper Jaffray Cos.

AIG CEO Peter Hancock is set to unveil AIG’s new vision for boosting returns and narrowing the company’s focus in a presentation tomorrow (26 Jan). Icahn has insisted on an overhaul of the mainly property casualty and life company.  
New Yorkers pay top dollar for basic health cover
Residents of New York shell out the most in the country for basic health insurance, according to a new survey by comparison site New Mexicans pay the least, the poll found.
Comparing the most popular - or silver - plan offered through national or state-level insurance exchanges run via the Affordable Care Act, the survey evaluated the plan’s monthly premium, deductible, emergency care copay and copay for treatment by a primary physician.
States With Highest Health Insurance Costs
  1. New York
  2. South Carolina
  3. Alabama
  4. New Jersey
  5. Mississippi
States With Lowest Health Insurance Costs
  1. New Mexico
  2. Utah
  3. California
  4. Texas
  5. Pennsylvania

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