Thursday, April 27, 2006

CIGNA HealthCare Provides Information for Consumers

BLOOMFIELD, Conn., April 27, 2006 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- As Americans seek more information to help compare health care cost and quality, CIGNA today announced that it will further extend its leadership in providing consumer information by expanding its suite of online health care cost and quality information tools.

The suite of information tools will now also include cost data about outpatient surgery procedures and radiology services. The company said it would initially provide the information in two markets, Wichita, Kansas and the state of New Hampshire. Members will have access to the estimated average cost range of procedures in those two areas. "We found that costs vary significantly among outpatient and radiology providers, and people need additional actionable information to help them make more informed decisions about where to go for their outpatient surgical or radiology procedure," said Dr. Jeffrey Kang, chief medical officer for CIGNA HealthCare. "Since the majority of these procedures are not urgent, members have time to review costs and make decisions that are right for them about which facility to use."
Effective immediately, Wichita and New Hampshire members will be able to access and compare estimated average cost ranges by facility for outpatient and high-tech radiology services for 15 outpatient procedures that account for a majority of all facility-based ambulatory surgeries, such as colonoscopy, endoscopy or cardiac catheterization.

Estimated average cost ranges for the three most common high-tech radiology procedures, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and computerized axial tomography (CT) will also be available. The capability is expected to be expanded to additional areas in August 2006. "Wesley Medical Center supports sharing information with our patients and other customers, and we continue to supply information to credible third parties, such as Leapfrog, JCAHO and accrediting institutions. Cost and quality information that is accurate and reliable will help empower consumers," states David S. Nevill, chief executive officer, Wesley Medical Center, one of HCA's hospitals. "I believe CIGNA HealthCare is taking a measured approach on this issue and is providing important information to its members to help them be better educated health care consumers." The new cost information tools will be added to the robust online cost and quality tools already available on CIGNA HealthCare's personalized member web portal,

Early last year, the company launched an array of hospital transparency tools to help members evaluate hospitals on quality and average overall cost for certain procedures. Adds Kang, "We believe that providing quality and cost information for services helps make our members more empowered decision-makers." In addition to its quality and cost transparency tools, CIGNA HealthCare also has other decision support tools to help members use resources more efficiently.

The company has developed CIGNA Care Network, a designation given to specialty providers who meet or exceed certain quality and efficiency standards. Members pay a reduced copayment or coinsurance level when they choose a specialist designated as a CIGNA Care Network provider. Total reimbursement to the specialist remains the same under this benefit design option.

The company is also the first national carrier that allows consumers to compare out-of-pocket prescription drug prices through its Pharmacy Price Quote Tool that provides estimated costs for generic and brand name drugs from more than 54,000 retail pharmacies across the country and CIGNA Tel-Drug, its home delivery pharmacy. CIGNA HealthCare, headquartered in Bloomfield, CT, provides medical benefits plans, dental coverage, behavioral health coverage, pharmacy benefits, and products and services that integrate and analyze information to support consumerism and health advocacy. "CIGNA HealthCare" refers to various operating subsidiaries of CIGNA Corporation (NYSE: CI). Products and services are provided by these operating subsidiaries and not by CIGNA Corporation.

CIGNA Pharmacy Management (CPM) refers to various operating subsidiaries of CIGNA Corporation. Products and services are provided by these subsidiaries and not by CIGNA Corporation. These subsidiaries include Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, Tel-Drug, Inc., Tel-Drug of Pennsylvania, L.L.C., and HMO or service company subsidiaries of CIGNA Health Corporation.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Kaiser Permanente Researches Depression in Young Diabetics

Poor Blood Sugar Control Linked to Depression in Youth With Diabetes

Kaiser Permanente researcher leads study on possible indicators behind higher rates of depression

Oakland, CA—Poor blood sugar control and frequent emergency room visits are just two of the telltale signs that children and adolescents with diabetes may be suffering from symptoms of depression, finds a new study by researchers at Kaiser Permanente Southern California and five other study sites.

These results are from the first large population-based study to look at diabetes in youth in the United States. The study, which found that girls were more likely to have symptoms of depression than boys, estimated the prevalence of depression among 2,672 youth with diabetes, aged 10 to 21, as well as possible factors associated with higher rates of depression. The results appear in the April 3 issue of Pediatrics. Fourteen percent of study participants had symptoms of mild depression, while nearly 9 percent had symptoms of moderate to severe depression. Depressive symptoms increased in both boys and girls in tandem with increases in Hemoglobin A1c, which is measured to determine long-term blood sugar control.

Boys with moderate or severe depressive symptoms had 80 percent more emergency room visits, whereas girls had 60 percent more ER visits than did youth with no symptoms of depression. "This study found several clear signs that a child or adolescent with diabetes may be experiencing symptoms of depression and may benefit from additional mental health screening from physicians and other health care professionals," says Jean Lawrence, ScD, MPH, the study’s lead author and an epidemiologist with the Department of Research & Evaluation in Kaiser Permanente’s Southern California region. Additionally, she notes, "health care providers should also consider mental health evaluations and interventions for youth who have a history of depression and who are not currently in treatment, since depression is associated with poor blood sugar control."

In addition to poor blood sugar control and more trips to the ER, researchers discovered that girls who had diabetes, along with additional health problems, were more likely to show signs of depression, compared with girls with diabetes alone. At the same time, boys with type 2 diabetes were more likely to have moderately to severely depressed mood than boys with type 1 diabetes. "This is the first study to document the frequency of depression symptoms among youth with diabetes, in a large population-based sample," says Michael Engelgau, MD, acting director of the Division of Diabetes Translation at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "The findings of an association of depression and poor glycemic control, and of a higher frequency of depression among girls have great relevance for improving diabetes control and the quality of life for these young people and their families."

Eighty-five percent of the study's participants had type 1 diabetes, while 14 percent had type 2 diabetes. Lawrence points out that study participants were not screened for clinical depression, but rather, the study aimed to identify those at risk for depression.

Lawrence also reports that youth with diabetes were no more likely to show signs of depression than youth without diabetes from similar age and racial/ethnic groups who had undergone screening using the same methodology in previous studies. The study is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, and is part of SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth, a six-center, population-based study focusing on physician-diagnosed diabetes in children and youth in the United States. SEARCH, a 10-year study that began in 2000, is aimed at identifying diabetes cases among more than 5 million American children each year.

SEARCH has study centers in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington. "The SEARCH program and studies like this one are indicative of the gains we can make in the medical community as a whole, when we partner in research, prevention, and control efforts," added Engelgau.

Kaiser Permanente has research offices in California, Oregon, Hawaii, Georgia, Colorado, Maryland, and Ohio. Results of research conducted by Kaiser Permanente physicians and investigators have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine, the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the American Journal of Public Health, Pediatrics, The Permanente Journal, and other clinical journals. Kaiser Permanente is America’s leading integrated health plan. Founded in 1945, it is a nonprofit, group practice prepayment program with headquarters in Oakland, Calif. Kaiser Permanente serves the health care needs of 8.4 million members in 9 states and the District of Columbia. Today it encompasses the nonprofit Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and their subsidiaries, and the for-profit Permanente Medical Groups. Nationwide, Kaiser Permanente includes approximately 145,000 technical, administrative and clerical employees and caregivers, and more than 12,000 physicians representing all specialties.