Los Angeles Prosecutors Claim WellPoint Misled Public About Rescissions
On Wednesday, Los Angeles city prosecutors filed an amended civil complaint accusing the insurance company WellPoint of misleading the public earlier this year by stating that it had changed its policies for rescinding patients' policies after they become ill, the Los Angeles Times reports.
WellPoint is the parent company of Anthem Blue Cross of California.
In 2008, the city attorney's office sued WellPoint over claims of false advertising and fraud related to WellPoint's rescission practices.
In April 2010, Reuters reported that WellPoint had targeted women with breast cancer for investigations that sometimes led to policy cancellations. The Obama administration later cited the Reuters investigation when it criticized WellPoint and the practice of rescinding coverage.
WellPoint called the Reuters report inaccurate, stating, "We do not single out breast cancer or pregnancy" as criteria for policy cancellations.
According to Los Angeles prosecutors, WellPoint issued three "false and misleading" press releases following the Reuters investigation.
Prosecutors said the insurer inaccurately claimed that it had changed its rescission-related procedures prior to the implementation of the federal health reform law. Starting in 2014, the reform law prohibits coverage cancellations except in cases of intentional misrepresentation.
In addition, prosecutors said WellPoint continues to target women with breast cancer for possible rescissions. They acknowledged that the company'sÂ policy cancellationsÂ had slowed to a "trickle," but said thatÂ the problem still exists.
On Wednesday, WellPoint denied wrongdoing.
The insurer said, "The city attorney's allegations are misguided, and the company will vigorously defend the new claims" (Helfand, Los Angeles Times, 10/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.