HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Urges WellPoint to Immediately Stop Dropping Coverage for Women with Breast Cancer

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter to WellPoint urging them to immediately end their practice of dropping health insurance coverage for women with breast cancer, after Reuters reported that the company "has specifically targeted women with breast cancer for aggressive investigation with the intent to cancel their policies."

The Affordable Care Act will ban such rescissions, except in cases of blatant misrepresentation or fraud, beginning this fall.

In her letter, Sebelius writes, "WellPoint should not wait to end the unconscionable practice of deliberately working to deny health insurance coverage to women diagnosed with breast cancer. I urge you to immediately cease these practices and abandon your efforts to rescind health insurance coverage from patients who need it most."

The text of the letter is included below.

April 22, 2010

[To: Angela Braly, WellPoint]

Dear Ms. Braly:

I was surprised and disappointed to read media accounts indicating that WellPoint routinely rescinds health insurance coverage from women recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Today's report from Reuters indicating that your company "has specifically targeted women with breast cancer for aggressive investigation with the intent to cancel their policies" is disturbing, and this practice is deplorable.

As you know, the practice described in this article will soon be illegal. The Affordable Care Act specifically prohibits insurance companies from rescinding policies, except in cases of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of material fact.

WellPoint should not wait to end the unconscionable practice of deliberately working to deny health insurance coverage to women diagnosed with breast cancer. I urge you to immediately cease these practices and abandon your efforts to rescind health insurance coverage from patients who need it most.

Breast cancer is the second-leading type of cancer among women, has touched millions of families, and will affect one in eight American women during their lifetime. This year alone, an estimated 192,000 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

I hope you will consider these women and their families as you work to end this harmful practice.

Sincerely,
Kathleen Sebelius

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