States say insurer uses unfair practices

The state of Massachusetts is the latest to investigate health insurer HealthMarkets, contending that the company engaged in unfair business practices and deceived consumers by selling policies which didn't offer state-required benefits. HealthMarkets, which sells policies with a wide range of limitations on coverage, has a checkered regulatory history, having already been fined by seven states. It's now being investigated in 36 states, including Alaska, Washington and Massachusetts. 

The company, which insures 650,000 people in 44 states, responded to a challenge by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley by offering to reassess claim rejections back to January 2002. And executives say they've improved customer service since the current CEO took over in 2003, with practices that include contacting new customers to be sure that they know what they're buying. However, regulators still get twice the level of complaints against HealthMarkets subsidiaries Mega Life or Mid-West National as the median for insurers nationally, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

To learn more about the investigations:
- read this USA Today article
- read this Mass. Attorney General press release

Related Article:
Group: MA health coverage is too expensive. Report