WellPoint pays hospitals $11.8M to settle bills from rescissions

Leading health plan WellPoint has agreed to pay $11.8 million to settle claims with hundreds of hospitals that it failed to pay after it dropped patients after treatment. WellPoint was sued by about 480 hospitals after it refused to pay them when it dropped policies of individual policyholders. The health plan had dropped these policyholders, it said, because the patients made mistakes on their applications or had pre-existing conditions. The patients, for their part, said that WellPoint subsidiary Anthem Blue Cross had improperly investigated their medical histories for evidence of such conditions after they'd submitted costly medical bills.

In their case, the hospitals said that Anthem should pay, given that the health plan authorized the care for patients who, at the time of treatment at least, were members in good standing. The fact that Blue Cross dropped the patients later had no bearing on the plan's obligation to pay these bills, the hospitals argued. Now the hospitals will be reimbursed for these bills. As part of the settlement, they've agreed to stop trying to collect these bills from the patients.

Anthem (and WellPoint's) legal troubles on this front are far from over, however. It still faces a separate class-action suit from the state's doctors over unpaid bills for patients with canceled policies. There's also a class-action pending that was filed on behalf of more than 6,000 patients whose policies were canceled since 2001. Meanwhile, the state's Department of Managed Health Care is considering piling on more fees, having already imposed a $1 million fine last year after it concluded the rescissions were illegal. The new fines could be as much as $200,000 per violation on about 1,700 disputed cancellations.

To learn more about these legal issues:
- read this Los Angeles Times article

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