Obama Administration ‘Urges’ Health Insurer to ‘Stop Dropping Coverage’ for Breast Cancer Patients

April 23, 2010 - 9:47 AM
The new health care law will ban such practices, except in cases of blatant misrepresentation or fraud, but that won't happen until this fall.
(CNSNews.com) – Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has sent a letter to health insurer WellPoint, “urging them to immediately end their practice of dropping health insurance coverage for women with breast cancer.”
 
The letter, dated April 22, comes after Reuters reported that the company “has specifically targeted women with breast cancer for aggressive investigation with the intent to cancel their policies.”
 
The Democrats' new health care law will ban such practices, except in cases of misrepresentation or fraud, but that won’t happen until this fall.
 
In her letter, Sebelius told WellPoint it “should not wait to end the unconscionable practice of deliberately working to deny health insurance coverage to women diagnosed with breast cancer. I urge you to immediately cease these practices and abandon your efforts to rescind health insurance coverage from patients who need it most.”
 
WellPoint called the Reuters report “inaccurate and grossly misleading.”
 
The company said it’s “simply wrong” to say that it single out women with breast cancer with the intent of canceling their insurance.

“WellPoint works to prevent breast cancer, to detect it early, and to get our members into treatment. We also work to ensure that all of our members are getting best practice care for breast cancer,” the company said in a news release, which offers a point-by-point rebuttal of the Reuters report.
 
The text of the Sebelius’ letter to Wellpoint CEO Angela Braly is printed below:
 
Dear Ms. Braly:
 
I was surprised and disappointed to read media accounts indicating that WellPoint routinely rescinds health insurance coverage from women recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Today’s report from Reuters indicating that your company “has specifically targeted women with breast cancer for aggressive investigation with the intent to cancel their policies” is disturbing, and this practice is deplorable.
 
As you know, the practice described in this article will soon be illegal. The Affordable Care Act specifically prohibits insurance companies from rescinding policies, except in cases of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of material fact.
 
WellPoint should not wait to end the unconscionable practice of deliberately working to deny health insurance coverage to women diagnosed with breast cancer. I urge you to immediately cease these practices and abandon your efforts to rescind health insurance coverage from patients who need it most.
 
Breast cancer is the second-leading type of cancer among women, has touched millions of families, and will affect one in eight American women during their lifetime. This year alone, an estimated 192,000 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

I hope you will consider these women and their families as you work to end this harmful practice.
 
Sincerely,
Kathleen Sebelius