News with clear eyes. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

One of the major consumer credit bureaus wants to get into the business of helping patients know much the medical care they are getting will really cost them.

TransUnion L.L.C., Chicago, today announced that its TransUnion Healthcare unit has acquired Financial Healthcare Systems L.L.C., Centennial, Colo.

TransUnion collects information about whether consumers have made their mortgage payments, auto loan payments, credit card payments, and payments to hospitals and other health care providers on time.

The Financial Healthcare FHSClearQuote system gives consumers an estimate of what their out-of-pocket costs for health care will be before they get the care – and run up the kinds of bills that TransUnion ends up tracking.

The companies are not saying how much TransUnion is paying for Financial Healthcare.

Timothy Estes, chief executive of Financial Healthcare, says he and his colleagues are excited to be part of a company that can provide the resources Financial Healthcare needs to grow.

Although TransUnion is best known as a credit bureau, it also offers a Revenue Manager system that helps doctors and hospitals handle patients who are depending on charity care programs or paying for care out of their own pockets, or both.

TransUnion will be combining the FHSClearQuote system with the Revenue Manager system and offering the combined system to existing Revenue Manager and FHSClearQuote system clients, TransUnion says.

NUMBER CRUNCHER

This seems to be the Year of the Actuary.

CNO Financial Group Inc., Carmel, Ind. (NYSE:CNO), became the latest company to make a high-profile actuary hire earlier this week when it brought Blake Westerfield aboard as vice president, product management, worksite health and specified disease. He will report to Dick Garner, who’s the senior vice president of product management for health.

Westerfield has been the chief actuary at Guarantee Trust Life Insurance Company, Glenview, Ill.

Before that, he worked for Celtic Insurance Company, Chicago.

Westerfield has a bachelor’s degree in actuarial science from the University of Illinois and a master’s degree in business from the management school at Northwestern University. (One of my alma maters.)

He is an associate of the Society of Actuaries, Schaumburg, Ill., and a member of the American Academy of Actuaries, Washington.

BROWN & BROWN

Brown & Brown Inc., Daytona Beach, Fla. (NYSE:BRO), is reporting $44 million in net income for the third quarter on $260 million, compared with $44 million in net income on $248 million in revenue for the third quarter of 2010.

Like UnitedHealth Group Inc., Minnetonka, Minn. (NYSE:UNH) – a giant health insurer that also reported earnings today – Brown & Brown scraped up flat earnings on somewhat higher revenue.

The company is best known as a property-casualty insurance broker, but it also sells health insurance and other employee benefits.

Powell Brown, the company’s president, said during the third-quarter earnings call that his company is seeing small group rates being about 10% higher than they were a year ago and large group rates about 5% to 15% higher.

Between 2008 and 2010, some benefits clients were acquired or went out of business or cut many jobs, and that has affected the benefits unit results, Brown said.

This year, group health plan enrollment has been holding steady.

Brown said he sees more pressure on health insurance commissions in some markets than in others.

In some markets, high-deductible plan prices are increasing more than prices for other types of plans. That suggests that “maybe they were underpriced when they were originally sold,” Brown said.

Brown noted that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) has created opportunities to win new customers as well as challenges.

But “no one has a crystal ball on exactly what health care reform is going to do, and many people out there believe that there will be additional changes to the current law that’s in place after the election next year, regardless of who the president is,” Brown said.