Reuters: Wellpoint Selectively Drops Breast Cancer Patients

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.

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3 thoughts on “Reuters: Wellpoint Selectively Drops Breast Cancer Patients

  1. Congratulations on two accounts: your website and your blog. It’s wonderful to have a voice like yours available for us to hear. I like the idea of collecting patients, held or dropped to discuss this matter. I am on the front of the line, having been fortunate to have not been dropped and 17 years healthy! Keep it going, Liz and I am behind you all the way.

  2. Liz, Point well said. Pun intended. I’m sorry to hear about your mom. Can you talk to any of the “droppped” patients or any breast cancer patients for that matter and bring in them into this blog too. I think big companies see numbers, not people. I’d like to hear through you what a patient feels. I’m really enjoying The Human Factor blog and many of the issues you bring to light.

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