On Thursday, the news agency Reuters reported on how the insurance giant WellPoint is targeting women with breast cancer and canceling their policies. According to Reuters, WellPoint is the nation’s largest health insurer, with one in nine Americans covered through WellPoint or one of its subsidiaries. This shameful practice is called rescission and healthcare reform is supposed to change that.
Wait, it gets better; Reuters also reported that lobbyists from WellPoint and other insurance companies removed a stipulation in the House bill that would have created a federal oversight office to monitor such practices, and required third-party review when insurance companies drop policyholders. The final bill did not include these consumer protections.
The news isn’t all bad. I took some comfort in the quick response of U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to WellPoint. In a letter to their CEO, also reported by Reuters, she called the practice “deplorable” and basically told them to knock it off. She said the practice will be illegal under the new healthcare law.
But that doesn’t mean we should assume everything will be okay and we don’t have to do anything. The bill is law, yes, but it’s subject to change and we need to make our voices heard. This link shows you how to contact your Congressional representative and senator.
There are two other reasons this is important: 1) It’s not just about breast cancer. According to Reuters, a WellPoint subsidiary doesn’t care for a potentially costly condition called pregnancy, which triggers the same extended investigation that breast cancer does. Reuters also reported recently on how Assurant Insurance is dropping people who are HIV-positive. 2) This points out how important it is to have professional investigative reporters, not just citizen journalists like us bloggers. Let’s hear it for the Fourth Estate.