BCBS California encourages employees to drop sick individuals

As the debate about health care reform continues to unfold in Washington D.C., at least one lawmaker is alleging Blue Cross of California encouraged employees through performance evaluations to cancel the health insurance policies of individuals with expensive illnesses. Rep. Bart Stupak, a Democrat from Michigan, leveled the charge at the beginning of a congressional hearing about the practice known as rescission (emphasis mine):

Documents obtained by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and released today show that the company’s employee performance evaluation program did include a review of rescission activity.

The documents show, for instance, that one Blue Cross employee earned a perfect score of “5” for “exceptional performance” on an evaluation that noted the employee’s role in dropping thousands of policyholders and avoiding nearly $10 million worth of medical care.

WellPoint’s Blue Cross of California subsidiary and two other insurers saved more than $300 million in medical claims by canceling more than 20,000 sick policyholders over a five-year period, the House committee said.

“When times are good, the insurance company is happy to sign you up and take your money in the form of premiums,” Stupak said. “But when times are bad, and you are afflicted with cancer or some other life-threatening disease, it is supposed to honor its commitments and stand by you in your time of need.

“Instead, some insurance companies use a technicality to justify breaking its promise, at a time when most patients are too weak to fight back,” he said.

What’s more, the Committee on Energy and Commerce also found what one lawmaker called “egregious” instances of rescission, including the systematic targeting of every policyholder diagnosed with leukemia, breast cancer and 1,400 other serious illnesses.

Some of the more common arguments against health care reform that I’ve encountered include:

  • Would government-run health care be Constitutional? (I’m looking at you, Rich)
  • Is it really a smart idea to put the government in charge of health care?
  • Couldn’t the free market take care of the problem better than the government ever could?
  • Do we really want bureaucrats in Washington making our health care decisions for us?

While I appreciate the arguments against a government-administered health care option, it’s stories like this – as well as so many other health care horror stories that make it abundantly clear some sort of health care reform is sorely needed in this country. Our current health care system is broken, and anyone who disagrees simply isn’t paying attention.

H/T to Elliot at From Where I Sit.


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