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Aetna Extends Olive Branch To Texas Doctors

In a rare admission, the president and chief executive officer of Aetna U.S. Healthcare says that when it came to contract negotiations, the insurer played too much hardball with physicians in Texas. The company's contracting tactics fueled a physician backlash that led several groups in the state to walk away from the HMO when their contracts expired.

"We could have handled it better," Aetna's Richard Huber told the Dallas Morning News. Huber added that the company would find ways to communicate better with its physicians.

The admission softens Aetna's earlier stance. After the AMA sent the insurer a letter accusing it of offering physicians take-it-or-leave-it contracts, the company issued a terse denial, saying that "No one is forced to sign."

Since then, Aetna averted a break with Methodist Hospitals of Dallas by raising physician payment rates, and avoided a revolt by Baylor University Medical Center physicians by reducing proposed fee cuts.

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