Posts Tagged - ‘Wellpoint’

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Do Health Insurance Stocks’ Profits Hurt Patients?

Friday, October 15th, 2010

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According to financial analyst Sarah James, the health insurance industry is a great investment. Profits are estimated to be higher in the third quarter of 2010, so firms like Aetna, Coventry, UnitedHealth, WellPoint, and Humana have had their price targets increased.

Unfortunately, what is positive for stockholders may not be as good for health insurance plan customers. One of the reasons for lower costs is a milder flu season than expected, which is obviously good for everyone. Increased enrollment is another explanation, which is generally neutral. Another, more worrying, factor is price increases.

Lower usage rates of costly inpatient hospital services could go either way: if the decline is because patients are truly becoming healthier and don’t need them, that’s great. However, if it is a result of insurers forcing patients into outpatient care before they are ready to cut their costs, it is not a good sign for consumers.

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Individual Health Insurance Coverage Denials Rose Since 2007

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

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Over the past two years (ending in 2009), four major health insurers’ rates of denying coverage to individual health insurance plan applicants rose by 50%.

A report from the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee claims that WellPoint, Aetna, UnitedHealth, and Humana purposely refused to sell coverage to over 600,000 people with pre-existing conditions. Up to 425 health conditions could disqualify a person from coverage under one insurer, and some would not conduct further internal review before denying coverage.

On the one hand, the insurers may have seen the writing on the wall when President Obama was elected, and wanted to maximize their profits as much as possible before regulations would limit their ability to discriminate based on pre-existing conditions.

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WellPoint Improves Health Insurance Coverage For Breast Cancer

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

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After lots of controversy surrounding their alleged rescission of the policies of breast cancer patients, WellPoint–one of America’s largest health insurance companies–is taking some steps to help patients and rehab their image.

Currently, a federal law is pending that will offer greater consumer protection to these women. However, WellPoint CEO Angela Braly has vowed to implement many of its provisions early, including medical insurance coverage for a voluntary minimum 48-hour hospital stay after a mastectomy.

Whether or not Representative Rosa DeLauro’s Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act passes or falls victim to general anti-healthcare reform sentiment (although its chances look bright–who wants to vote against cancer sufferers during an election year?), WellPoint will take these steps as of July 1st.

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WellPoint Gets More Scrutiny On Health Insurance Plans

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

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WellPoint is one of the most successful health insurance companies in America. It has also been embroiled in controversy, including extreme rate increases and allegedly rescinding policies of customers diagnosed with breast cancer.

CEO Angela Braly had to continue facing the music at the annual shareholders’ meeting. The bad timing of her company’s announcement of the 9-32% premium jumps in California (later withdrawn due to newly discovered filing errors) contributed to the passage of affordable health insurance reform. That law will clearly have an impact on their future dividends.

Braly continued to blame rising premiums on the generally higher cost of care, and recently wrote a letter to the Obama administration, criticizing them for vilifying the industry. WellPoint’s stock has slipped significantly since late April. Meanwhile, there were nearly 100 protesters outside.

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Sebelius Puts More Heat On WellPoint’s Health Insurance

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

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Recently, WellPoint has been one of the most controversial health insurance companies. Their rate increases and alleged dumping of policyholders with breast cancer have received much criticism.

Although they have taken some steps to repair their reputation, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius wants more. She is urging state insurance departments and governors to further examine the insurer’s proposed rate increases. In addition, she wants governors to make sure that states have the authority to review and approve health insurance plan rate changes.

Their increases in California gained the most attention, and the up to 39% price hikes have been blamed on an accounting error. Sebelius wants other states to check for similar errors.

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WellPoint Stops Dropping Sick Patients from Health Insurance

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

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After pressure from the Obama administration, WellPoint has agreed to quit dropping policyholders from their health insurance plans once they get sick.

Although the law only bans rescission six months from now, recent controversies have resulted in some demanding action earlier. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius congratulated WellPoint on their quick action, and hopes that other companies follow suit in implementing affordable health insurance reform.

The new guidelines will become effective on May 1st.

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Sebelius: WellPoint Must Stop Dropping Breast Cancer Patients

Monday, April 26th, 2010

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An update on an earlier story: the U.S. government has stepped into the controversy surrounding WellPoint, one of the nation’s top health insurance companies.

Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, has demanded that the health insurer quit its practice of dropping policyholders shortly after they are diagnosed with breast cancer. An AP investigation found that their software had algorithms that automatically flagged related diagnostic codes, unfairly targeting them for fraud investigations. Patients were then dropped with very little justification.

Affordable health insurance reform plans to phase out this practice, known as rescission. Sebelius considers WellPoint’s actions deplorable. In their defense, the insurer claims that they do not single out breast cancer; rather, they are searching for a variety of pre-existing conditions a person may have known of and lied about when purchasing coverage.

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Breast Cancer Patients Dropped From Health Insurance

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

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A recent Associated Press investigation found out a sad trend among one of the nation’s major health insurance companies. WellPoint has apparently been targeting patients recently diagnosed with breast cancer in order to cut costs. They have scoured their records to find any possible pretext for dropping women from their policies.

These women did the right thing, and bought a health insurance plan before they became ill. Despite paying their premiums on time each month, the insurer had software that flagged their accounts for an automatic fraud investigation if certain diagnostic codes–such as breast tumors–appeared in their records. Any justification, however inaccurate or minor, was allegedly used as an excuse to cancel their policies. Since breast cancer is very expensive to treat, it can save them millions of dollars in claims.

Hopefully, this practice of rescission will soon be a thing of the past, due to the new healthcare reform law. WellPoint refuses to confirm or deny the allegations because of medical privacy laws.

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Anthem Blue Cross Health Insurance Sued By Consumers

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

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The proposed health insurance rate increases by Anthem Blue Cross in California have been extremely controversial nationwide. Now, a consumer protection group has filed a lawsuit against the health insurer.

The group, known as Consumer Watchdog, claims that Anthem and its parent company WellPoint violated state law by leaving members with pre-existing conditions in closed policies–while preventing new members from joining certain health insurance plans. When Anthem then decided to jack up premiums, those people had nowhere to turn.

There is little competition, because people with pre-existing conditions can’t shop around for individual health insurance from other providers. Instead, they must either settle for inferior coverage and higher deductibles or pay more for the same coverage. Anthem Blue Cross’ actions may be considered an anticompetitive practice due to a provision in the California health and safety code, which requires health insurance companies to either expand the risk pool or offer a comparable alternative to closed plans.

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Anthem Blue Cross Hikes Rates By A Third In California

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010
One of California’s biggest health insurance carriers, Anthem Blue Cross, will increase¬† its individual health insurance premiums by nearly 40 percent starting next month.

The announcement came within hours of the Obama Administration’s call for Congressional Republicans and members of his own party to meet at the White House for a televised summit on moving forward with health care reform. President Obama appeared to use the announcement as political proof that health care reform is “essential,” while his Secretary of Health and Human Services denounced the insurance carrier in a statement later in the say.

“As we continue the health insurance reform debate in Washington, this announcement reminds us that too many Americans can be left with unaffordable insurance each time the rates of rules change in the private market,” said Sebelius. “It’s clear that we need health insurance reform that will give American families the secure, affordable coverage they need.”

Meanwhile back in Anthem’s home state, California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner publicly scathed the company and urged individuals looking for affordable health insurance plans to compare rates with other carriers. Poizner said he was “Alarmed” by the larger-than-expected rate increase and said his department would examine Anthem’s actions in the coming days.

Health insurance is regulated in the individual states where they are sold. In Calfornia, state law requires that health insurance companies spend at least 70 percent of every dollar earned from their premiums on medical care. Poizner said he has hired an outside actuary to review Anthem’s increase “to ensure they are complying with this state law. If we find that their rates are excessive, I will use the full power of my office to being these rates down.”

Complicating Anthem’s justification for the increase, its parent company, Wellpoint Inc. announced it had earned $2.7 billion during the previous business quarter. Neither Anthem nor Wellpoint made a public statement to the news media about its rate plan at the time this story was published.

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