WellPoint Targets Breast Cancer Patients -- Are Your Ta-Tas Next?

If you or your mother or sister or best friend have breast cancer, it seems like at least one insurance company has decided, without even hearing your story, that it wants to deny you coverage if it can find any reason, no matter how small or trivial.

We all know people who've been denied health insurance or been dropped by their carriers because of pre-existing conditions. It's sort of like when you have a car accident and your insurance company drops you as a bad safety risk. There was a time when health insurance didn't work this way, but as pressures have mounted for companies to protect shareholders over policyholders, the practice has increased.

It looks like the country's largest insurer, WellPoint, has taken that to a whole new distasteful level when it comes to women with breast cancer.

According to a recent Reuters investigation, it seems that WellPoint has a computer system that would spit out the names of women they insured who were diagnosed with breast cancer -- prompting an immediate investigation of that woman to see if there was anything they could dig up in her medical history that looked like a reason to deny coverage. Of course, WellPoint denies it ever did such a thing.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius has called on WellPoint to cease the "unconscionable" practice, even before the new Affordable Care Act goes into effect, but I'm not holding my breath, even though WellPoint claims it will. There's a common theme running through our country today -- from Goldman Sachs on Wall Street to WellPoint's insurance -- and that's an apparent duty first to shareholders to turn a profit before thinking about what the "right" thing to do is when it comes to customers.

I wanted to link to the original Reuters story but, oddly, it's no longer available. (I'm glad I printed it out). I tried to access it through several locations, including stories that had originally linked to it, but I get that famous error message we all get from time to time suggesting that we've typed in the wrong URL.

I know the new health care legislation is designed to put a stop to these practices. But just as we know from the current Goldman Sachs story (and so many others like it in the past), the Wall Street guys are always able to find a way around new regulations to make more money for themselves and for shareholders. I suspect, sadly, that it'll be no different with health insurance. These are for-profit companies whose mission is money making, not healing. I'm just waiting to see how creative they have to get when they can't use their computer algorithms anymore. I'm sure they'll find some way. 

WellPoint lobbied hard against health care reform -- no big surprise there. But there are other interesting tidbits about WellPoint. According to Congress, this is the same company that, along with two others, pocketed $300 million over five years by rescinding policies -- just like the ones they rescinded for all those breast cancer patients. This is also the company that tried to increase insurance premiums earlier this year in California by 39% because they thought they could get away with it. Even with health care reform, it's hard to guess what they'll try to get away with next and how it'll impact the health of our ta-tas. 

My best and dearest friend in the world died almost three years ago from breast cancer. I don't ever want to find out WellPoint had anything to do with that. Because then I'd have to start a "boobquake" of my own.

Joanne Bamberger is sometimes better known around the blogosphere as PunditMom.

Photo courtesy of Photobucket.


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nonmember avatar Reality

hmmm Joanne, I wonder why Reuters removed their story about Wellpoint from their website?  Oh wait I know, because it's grossly inaccurate and is full of false accusations in an attempt to exploit a company that has been abused by politics.  Why else would they remove it?  Get your facts straight next time and try writing an article without repeatedly using the words "it seems".  "It seems" is not a statement of fact, it is a statement that has no foundation of proof, it is an uneducated guess.

Pundi... PunditMom

Well, "Reality,"  IT SEEMS that you haven't looked at the other parts of the story -- the fact that HHS Secretaty Kathleen Sebelius has caled on WellPoint to stop the practice is pretty good evidence that something is going on.  Or do you really believe that the big insurance companies who try to claim that many breast cancer patients are committing fraud just to get covered for a deadly disease.

"It seems" to me that perhaps you might want to check in with all the women who have been denied benefits so WellPoint, and other insurance companies, can make a buck at their expense.  The only thing that the removal of the story says to me is that giant WellPoint has a lot more money to threaten a lawsuit than Reuters has to defend it., whether it's based in reality or not.

nonmember avatar Steve

The Kathleen Sebelius statement is not "pretty good evidence" of anything because the statement was made after the Reuters story, and based on the Reuters story.  Kathleen Sebelius commenting on an article with mis-information is the same as you writing a blog post based on the same article and throwing in the phrase "it seems".  Why don't you post a link to Wellpoint's response to the story and Angela Braly's letter to Kathleen Sebelius?  These are still posted on Wellpoint's website and have NOT been taken down.


Pundi... PunditMom

Sorry, I find it hard to believe what wellPoint has to say in light of the personal stories that so many women who have been insured by them have told.  A for-profit insurance company can hang as many pink ribbons on its walls as it wants, but as long as it continues to deny coverage for breast cancer patients, I'll believe the Reuers story.  My bet is that it wasn't taken down because of inaccurancies, but because Reuters didn't have the time or stomach to deal with mega-giant WellPoint and their legions of lawyers.

nonmember avatar Susan @WhyMommy

If there's even a grain of truth to the report, it's disgusting.


Panopel Panopel

I'm sure all those women with breast cancer are just ganging up on poor little insurance companies. Poor babies.

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