Though they lived and worked nearly two thousand miles apart, Yenny Hsu, who lived and worked in Los Angeles, and Patricia Reilling, an art gallery owner and interior designer from Louisville, Kentucky have more in common than even they realized. Shortly after they were diagnosed with breast cancer, each of the women learned that her health insurance had been canceled. The health insurance carriers for both women were subsidiaries of Wellpoint, the largest health insurance provider in the nation, and thanks to a computer algorithm used by Wellpoint that automatically targeted them and every other policyholder recently diagnosed with breast cancer, both women’s policies were cancelled.
Prior to being diagnosed with breast cancer, both women paid their premiums on time, and neither had any problems with their insurance providers. When they first became aware their policies had been cancelled, they believed their policies had been canceled by mistake. However, the cancellation of their policies was no mistake; the computer algorithm that targeted them and every other policyholder recently diagnosed with breast cancer triggered an immediate fraud investigation, as the company searched for some pretext to drop their policies, according to government regulators and investigators. Once the women were identified, the insurer then canceled their policies based on either erroneous or flimsy information.
The practice of rescission is pretty awful, as I’ve noted before, but cancelling the policies of women diagnosed with breast cancer is absolutely unconscionable, especially for a company like Wellpoint, whose president and chief executive officer happens to be a woman, Angela Braly.