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Aon names Christie as vice chairman

CHICAGO-Peter S. Christie, chairman and chief executive officer of Minet Group, has been named vice chairman of Aon Group Inc.

In his new position, Mr. Christie will work with all Aon Group entities to develop long-term business strategies, with a special focus on increasing Aon's professional liability and service business.

Mr. Christie is well known in the industry for his experience with the Big Six accounting firms' professional liability insurance programs.

Aon recently completed its acquisition of Minet from The St. Paul Cos. Inc. (BI, April 14).

Legislation seeks contraceptive cover

WASHINGTON-Legislation introduced in the Senate earlier this month would require group health care plans that provide prescription drug benefits to cover contraceptive drugs and devices on the same basis as other prescriptions.

Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Harry Reid, D-Nev., who sponsored the legislation, S. 743, said expanding access to contraceptives would reduce the number of unintended pregnancies.

Typically, group health care plans only provide coverage for contraceptives such as birth control pills for medical reasons, such as reduction of pain or discomfort from menstruation, rather than to reduce the likelihood of pregnancy, said Mike Sass, a principal with A. Foster Higgins & Co. Inc. in New York.

Illinois to consider

balance billing ban

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.-Legislation to amend Illinois' workers compensation law by outlawing so-called "balance billing" is awaiting action by the state Senate after passage by the House earlier this month.

S.B. 73 would outlaw the controversial practice of medical care providers billing injured workers for payments in excess of the amount paid by an insurer or self-insuring employer. Nearly every other state bans this practice (BI, Feb. 3).

Until now, Illinois employers, labor unions and insurers have been unsuccessful in urging legislators to pass such a ban.

Doctors and hospitals favor balance billing as a way to obtain adequate compensation for the extra time and reports involved in treating workers comp claimants, maintain their incomes and prevent workers comp payers from dictating fees.

Massachusetts blues to be monitored

BOSTON-The Massachusetts Insurance Division will increase its oversight of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Massachusetts, after an analysis by a department consultant found that mismanagement caused substantial losses last year.

Arthur Andersen L.L.P. reported that BC/BS of Massachusetts last year had a $145 million net underwriting loss and a $90 million net loss, according to the company's 1996 annual statement. A draft report by the consultant concludes that as a result "of the severity of the 1996 results and the significant uncertainty regarding 1997 results, the current and future financial condition of the company is of serious concern," Insurance Commissioner Linda Ruthardt wrote in a letter to BC/BS management.

The Insurance Division plans to follow the consultant's recommendation that it more closely scrutinize BC/BS operations by having a representative attend all meetings and monitor onsite the day-to-day transactions at the company, including approving all large expenditures. In addition, the division or its designee will perform periodic premium and claims testing.

BC/BS managers indicated that they wanted to work with the division to help assure that they remain viable and improve performance, Ms. Ruthardt said.

Republicans criticize Superfund stance

WASHINGTON-The Clinton administration's Superfund reauthorization principles are too rigid, according to one of the chief Republican advocates of reforming the controversial environmental cleanup program.

"To the extent they tell us where the administration is at this time, they are an addition to the process," said Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, during an address earlier this month to the National Assn. of Manufacturers in Washington.

But Rep. Oxley noted that the principles, released earlier this month, emphasized the White House's opposition to more than 30 possible reforms (BI, May 12). For example, the administration remains adamantly opposed to changing the program's imposition of retroactive and joint and several liability for cleaning up sites that were used before Superfund's 1980 enactment.

"It's fine to be for and against things, but this is not the time to draw lines in the sand," said Rep. Oxley. He said he hopes negotiations on Superfund reform legislation begin in earnest after Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess. The congressman said earlier this month that he would like the House to vote on the as-of-yet-undrafted reform bill sometime this fall.

Breast implant suit allowed to proceed

DETROIT--Attorneys for Dow Chemical Co. are asking a federal judge to reconsider her decision to allow a class-action breast implant suit to go forward against the company in state court in Louisiana.

U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood of Detroit allowed the trial in New Orleans to resume even though a federal appellate court ruled earlier this month that breast implant cases against Dow Chemical be consolidated in U.S. Bankruptcy Court with those against its subsidiary, Dow Corning Corp.

Meanwhile, in a separate case, Dow Chemical was found not liable for injuries claimed by temporomandibular joint implant recipients.

The May 16 ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul, Minn., upheld a lower court ruling dismissing the company from all federal lawsuits involving TMJ implants.


WASHINGTON-Budget reconciliation legislation to be unveiled next month is likely to include a provision that would lengthen the time that employers must pay the medical bills of employees with end stage renal disease, says the chairman of the House Ways and Means Health subcommittee.

Under current law, employer plans are the primary payers of medical bills for employees with ESRD for the first 18 months. After that, the liability shifts to Medicare.

But Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., said last week he would like to double employer liability to 36 months as part of budget reconciliation legislation his subcommittee will consider next month. Rep. Thomas acknowledged, though, that it is unlikely that Congress would increase employer liability to more than 30 months.

Such a change in law would significantly increase employer costs for employees with ESRD. Typically, annual health care bills for those with ESRD-or kidney disease-amount to about $50,000.