Breast Cancer Patients Targeted By Insurance Companies

Just when you thought the health insurance industry couldn’t get any sleazier comes news from Reuters that the insurance company WellPoint, who insures some 33.7 million people has set up computer algorithms that automatically target their policy holders as soon as they receive a breast cancer diagnosis.  Once targeted by the algorithm, WellPoint flagged those policyholders for fraud and looked for any way to rescind coverage.  The result has been tens of thousands of Americans losing health insurance shortly after being diagnosed with a life-threatening, expensive medical condition.  The practice has been documented by law enforcement agencies, state regulators, but as of today, nothing has changed the practice.

In the health care reform legislation recently passed, President Obama promised an end to the practice of rescission, but it remains unclear as to whether or not that will come to pass.  The final version of the bill failed to contain any real regulatory or oversight of insurance industry practices, though the law gives power to the Department of Health and Human Services to promulgate regulations on the industry.  And since those proposed regulations have not been announced yet, there’s still room to hope that the practice gets regulated out of existence.

This report comes right after the insurance company was called on by California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poziner to justify a proposed 39% premium increase for individual policy holders.  More shocking still, CEO Angela Braly’s overall compensation rose to $13.1 million as a result of additional stock options and a performance bonus.  This represents an overall jump in compensation of 51%.

At a time when most Americans are struggling to keep their homes, and a major medical illness remains the single greatest bankruptcy threat to many households, this kind of behavior is simply inexcusable.  According to the Reuters report, WellPoint’s aggressive targeting of breast cancer diagnoses resulted in claims being cancelled based on flimsy or erroneous information.

Outraged by this kind of conduct?  Well, here’s how you can let WellPoint know.  And make sure and let state and federal regulators know that mandatory third-party review of policy rescissions is a must.  The insurance industry has proven time and time again that it has absolutely no ability to regulate itself and treat its customers in a fair and humane manner.  They deserve no benefit of the doubt, no credit, and certainly no leniency on this issue.

photo courtesy of see ming lee via Flickr


Sue Anne

That is so ridiculous and way beyond greedy. Insurance companies have been doing such atrocities for years and it is not just limited to breast cancer patients. Something seriously needs to be done about this because they obviously don't care who suffers or dies as a result.

johan l.
paul l7 years ago

Flagged for fraud?
What are we talking about here.
The only people guilty of fraudis the insurance industry.
They take your money but do everything in their power to reject you from benefits.
Shocking and typical of the greedy insurance monster!
What is the new health bill for, Mr. Obama?

lady g.
lady g.7 years ago


Yulan L.
Yulan Lawson7 years ago

I agree with what Janice P that the corporations and politions are hand in hand and also what Cheryl W said which is also true. I too worked in the insurance industry for about 10 years. Really think about this though. Whenever there's an insurance claim on anything and the seller finds out insurance is paying, the price goes up. And let's not forget all the people who try to use the Insurance company as a bank, which it's not, with all the false claims people make to try a make a buck out of the insurance company. Then everyone wonders why their premiums go up. They're based on the amount of claims per year.

Janice P.
Janice P7 years ago

To answer your question, Cheryl: People don't complain about auto insurance companies the way they complain about health insurance companies for two major reasons: (1) not having auto insurance will not lead to ones death and (2) no auto insurance policy costs tens of thousands of dollars per year.

I can understand that you would defend the indefensible of the insurance leeches. You worked for them for over 20 years. That job paid your bills. I'm sure that YOU had insurance,and YOU did not have to worry about dying because you did not. I'm sure that YOU did not have to lose your home, in order to pay for an operation necessary to save your life. But, then, when ones life is protected, one often does not care about the lives of others. Fortunately, most of the rest of the civilized and industrialized world does regard human life so cavalierly.

Janice P.
Janice P7 years ago

If you are looking for the recent health care legislation to protect you and your family from the excesses of the insurance companies, I have a bridge I would like to sell you. The insurance companies, along with other corporations, own our elected officials. Period.

The phrase "What is good for general Motors, is good for America" has become "What is good for the corporations, is good for the politicians". Wake up, America. Don't keep voting the same people, who sold you out, back into office. If you keep doing the same thing over and over, how can you ever REALLY expect a different result?

Cheryl W.
Cheryl W7 years ago

Auto insurance works the same way health insurance does. I am just curious why people don't complain about that too???? As far as it being for profit, businesses aren't in business not to make money. You have to have a profit to pay your employees' salaries. There is not for profit insurance. It is called Medicaid.

Bette Mccracken
Bette M7 years ago

I'm thinking that a more appropriate name for Wellpoint might be Sickpoint...

Sheila L.
sheila l7 years ago

ObamaCare will not solve these problems, the health system will only get worse, so get used to it, until we get the right politicians in office who will overturn Obamacare and write correct legislation for healthcare reform.

Laura P.
Laura P7 years ago

Why is it that Everything has to provide a profit? Aren't some things, such as health care, water, shelter, entities that everyone should have some access to - not just based on one's ability to pay. It would seem the profit motive is fine when the goods or services are a a matter of choice, comfort, or convenience - but not when they are essential to staying alive.