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    Insurers fined on mental health coverage

    Excerpts from the Globe’s health care blog.

    Seven health insurance companies have agreed in recent years to pay the state and consumers $5.6 million for failing to cover mental health care and other services that state law requires.

    Last month, US Fire Insurance Co. agreed to pay $625,000 and Transamerica in March said it would pay more than $1.3 million after the state alleged the companies failed to cover maternity care, pap tests, mammography, preventive care for children, and mental health services.

    The latest settlements prompted Attorney General Martha Coakley to warn the trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans that her office would continue to pursue the issue and urge the group to educate its members on the requirements for mental health coverage. She specifically noted concerns about plans marketed to veterans who may have urgent needs.


    “Failure to provide coverage of important mandated mental health benefits has a severe and detrimental impact on individuals who need those services, their families, and even their communities,” Coakley wrote May 2.

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    The letter comes as state governments and courts look more closely at whether insurers are complying with laws meant to ensure people with mental illness get care.

    A Vermont woman is suing Fletcher Allen Health Care , alleging that the hospital system’s insurance plan for employees violates a 2008 federal law requiring parity in coverage for physical and mental health care.

    In Connecticut, state psychiatry associations have alleged that Anthem Health Plans changed billing codes to lower payments to doctors treating patients for mental health needs. The New York State Psychiatric Association earlier this year sued UnitedHealth Group.

    Dr. Don Condie, past president of the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society, said the elementary school shootings in Newtown, Conn., in December pushed regulators to scrutinize insurers who may be violating the laws regarding care for the mentally ill.


    A spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans said the organization is reviewing the attorney general’s letter. Robert Zirkelbach said that while his organization educates members about changes in state or federal policies, it does not advise them on how to ­comply.

    New leadership

    Audrey Shelto of Newton will be next president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation.

    She has worked since 2007 for the group’s namesake insurer, which helped to establish the nonprofit with an endowment in 2001.

    She replaces Sarah Iselin, who left to become the insurer’s chief strategist.

    A Norwell cardiologist, Dr. Ronald Dunlap, this week assumes his post as president of the Massachusetts Medical Society.


    Dunlap is a physician with South Shore Cardiology in Weymouth.

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