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

BB&T Insurance Services is making another distribution deal in California.

BB&T Insurance Services, a unit of BB&T Corp., Winston-Salem, N.C. (NYSE:BBT) – a midsize regional bank holding company – has acquired F.B.P. Insurance Services Inc., Irvine, Calif., a benefits consulting and administration firm that does business as Precept Group.

Precept was founded in 1987. It services employers with 50 to 50,000 employees in 42 states.

BB&T is not saying how much it is paying for Precept, but it says it is adding 140 employees from Precept and an office in San Ramon, Calif., as well as the Precept office in Irvine.

Precept will continue to manage the Precept Consulting Services and ProView Benefits Administration Services businesses, BB&T says.

BB&T recently announced the acquisition of Liberty Benefit Insurance Services Inc., San Jose, Calif., a benefits brokerage firm that was founded in 1991.

BB&T entered California in June 2008 when it acquired the insurance services business of UnionBanCal Corp., San Francisco.

BB&T notes in a discussion of the Precept deal that, because of the new rules created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA), employers want to spend more time talking with consultants about how they should run their benefit plans.

HOOKED

A few years ago, many publicly traded health insurers were rushing as fast as they could to get away from Medicare plus Choice, the predecessor to the Medicare Advantage, and vowing that they would never, ever get tangled up with government health plans again.

This quarter, of course, many health insurers are running their earnings calls as if they specialized solely in selling Medicare and Medicaid plans and had never thought about the commercial health insurance market.

Steve Zaharuk, a senior vice president at Moody’s Investors Service, New York, writes in a commentary about a flurry of companies’ recent Medicare and Medicaid deals that they generally are “credit positive for purchasers.”

The deals should help the acquirers expand existing business segments and, in some cases, diversify their income streams, Zaharuk says.

Insurers are trying to build Medicare Advantage and Medicaid managed care revenue streams because of concerns about the challenges that PPACA might cause for the commercial coverage market, Zaharuk says.

“However, these government entitlement programs are not without their own risks,” Zaharuk says. “For both programs, the major risk is the level of reimbursement paid to the insurers by the government to cover the programs’ health benefits.”

PPACA is supposed to increase federal Medicaid funding beginning in 2014, but, for now, at least, state budget pressures could affect reimbursement levels, Zaharuk says.

Medicare Advantage enrollment levels have continued to increase in spite of recent reimbursement cuts, but, for companies with Medicare Advantage operations, PPACA provisions calling for the federal government to reduce Medicare Advantage reimbursement levels even further could be a challenge, Zaharuk says.

“It is not clear how current Medicare Advantage members will respond to the resulting benefit and premium changes that will likely result from these reduced reimbursement levels,” Zaharuk says.

PEOPLE

- Ralph Tyler, a former Maryland insurance commissioner, is now a partner in the Baltimore and Washington offices of Venable.

Tyler most recently has been chief counsel at the federal Food and Drug Administration.

Tyler has been a lawyer for about 35 years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois, a law degree from Case Western Reserve University, and a master of laws degree from Harvard University.

- The Silverfern Group Inc., New York, has hired Stephen Greene to lead its health care merchant banking business.

Greene previously was a managing director in the merchant banking group at Morgan Joseph TriArtisan L.L.C., New York.