Just yesterday, we read with great alarm a news report that WellPoint, one of the country’s largest health insurers, is routinely dropping coverage for women that are diagnosed with breast cancer.
These are the kinds of scenarios that motivated the President to work so long and so hard to pass health reform. And because of the health reform legislation passed last month, the worst excesses and abuses of the insurance industry – including what WellPoint is said to have done -- will soon be reined in by new tough consumer protections.
Yesterday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote a letter to WellPoint’s CEO urging her company to immediately end this harmful practice:
April 22, 2010
[To: Angela Braly, WellPoint]
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.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director