Health Care

Insurer Targets Breast Cancer Patients

A Reuters investigation isn't going to help the health-insurance industry's reputation. The news organization reports that health-care company WellPoint uses an algorithm to automatically trigger a fraud investigation when a woman insured by one of its subsidiaries is diagnosed with breast cancer, with the intention of finding a pretext to cancel her policy. Reuters spoke with five women who were kicked off their plan based on flimsy or wrong evidence, including one woman whom President Obama cited, as part of his push for a national health-care overhaul, for losing her coverage after her cancer diagnosis. (Administration officials said they had no idea WellPoint—which has 33.7 million policyholders, more than any other American company—was systematically targeting breast cancer sufferers for rescission.) That WellPoint targets breast cancer patients is surprising, given that the company earned praise for improving care for patients with that very disease. Recently, Reuters also uncovered Assurant Health's similar policy of targeting HIV patients; courts forced the company to pay millions in settlements. The new health-care legislation aims to end rescission, but critics fear the law doesn't have enough teeth.