The other day, I gave a shout out to giant insurance company Wellpoint for doing the right thing by extending health coverage to young adults sooner than the new Health Reform law mandates.
I think I have to take it back.
Reuters News Service broke the story today about Wellpoint cancelling coverage (rescissions in insurance parlance) to hundreds of women undergoing treatment for breast cancer. “WellPoint was using a computer algorithm that automatically targeted… every other policyholder recently diagnosed with breast cancer,” according to the report. If a case was flagged by the software, the company launched an immediate, aggressive search for anything – such as a pre-existing condition – that might allow them to drop the customer. All, of course, in the interest of saving money.
Wellpoint, according to previous Congressional investigations, is one of the worst offenders when it comes to dropping policies of people who get “expensive” sick. But to specifically target women with breast cancer is beyond unconscionable. Ironic, considering Wellpoint has previously received good press for supporting breast cancer causes.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called this practice “deplorable” and “unconscionable.” I can think of a few other terms to describe it as well. Do you believe Wellpoint’s contention that yes, they do use computer algorithms to find patterns in diagnostic codes, but don’t single out breast cancer patients? I don’t. This is a company that has a horrible track record with rescissions.
The idea of cherry picking only healthier patients and kicking out the sick ones is appalling. The company’s CEO said the Reuters report was misleading and details taken out of context. Apparently Federal investigators beg to differ.
I lost my mother to breast cancer in 1997. So this strikes a strong personal note. She was fortunate to have good insurance coverage, and even so, costs were sky-high. I can’t even imagine attempting to pay for care without it.
The new health reform law outlaws the practice of dropping sick patients except in cases of fraud or gross misrepresentation. The provision kicks in this fall, and it can’t come along soon enough. Unfortunately, it may come too late for some breast cancer patients.
Profits before people. Shame on you, Wellpoint. Yep, I take it back.