Thursday, June 18, 2009

Insurance company executives vow, under oath, to continue dropping coverage for sick policyholders

Executives from three major U.S. insurance companies swore to congress this week that they would continue the practice of rescinding the health insurance of some policyholders who fall ill.

No, you didn't read that wrong. They vowed, under oath, to refuse to pay health claims after policyholders get sick.

The hearing on the controversial action known as rescission, which has left thousands of Americans burdened with costly medical bills despite paying insurance premiums, began a day after President Obama outlined his proposals for revamping the nation's healthcare system.

An investigation by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations showed that health insurers WellPoint Inc., UnitedHealth Group and Assurant Inc. canceled the coverage of more than 20,000 people, allowing the companies to avoid paying more than $300 million in medical claims over a five-year period.

It also found that policyholders with breast cancer, lymphoma and more than 1,000 other conditions were targeted for rescission and that employees were praised in performance reviews for terminating the policies of customers with expensive illnesses.
What they are doing is scouring patients' medical records for any excuse they can use to claim that the policyholders failed to report pre-existing conditions.

"It's about the money," said Jennifer Wittney Horton, a Los Angeles woman whose policy was rescinded after failure to report a weight-loss medication she was no longer taking and irregular menstruation.


A Texas nurse said she lost her coverage, after she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, for failing to disclose a visit to a dermatologist for acne.

The sister of an Illinois man who died of lymphoma said his policy was rescinded for the failure to report a possible aneurysm and gallstones that his physician noted in his chart but did not discuss with him.
And when Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MICH) asked the executives if they would be willing to commit to using rescission only in cases where they could prove intentional fraud, the answer was a unanimous "no."

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) said that a public insurance plan should be a part of any overhaul because it would force private companies to treat consumers fairly or risk losing them.

"This is precisely why we need a public option," Dingell said.
Health insurance companies are motivated by profit. We need a public health insurance option. Voters already understand that. The latest WSJ/NBC News poll shows that three-quarters want the choice between private insurance and a public option.

On the topic of health care, the poll shows that more than three-quarters believe it’s important for Americans to have a choice between a public/government insurance plan and a private one.
If Democrats and health reform advocates cannot use this information to turn the media narrative in favor of a public option, they are of no use to anybody.