Regence fined $100K for illegally denying contraception

Regence BlueShield was fined $100,000 by the Washington insurance commissioner for improperly denying coverage to women seeking to remove a birth control device.

"We wanted to make sure they understood and other companies understood that they had a duty to do due diligence when there's a new law," Stephanie Marquis, spokeswoman for the insurance commissioner's office, told the Seattle Times.

The office reviewed Regence records back to 2002, when Washington passed a law requiring insurers to cover approved prescription contraceptives, finding that it improperly denied coverage to 984 women, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.

Regence's policy paid for the insertion of an intrauterine device, but not its removal--unless it was deemed "medically necessary." As such, the insurer denied claims from women who wanted their birth control device removed because they wanted to become pregnant or the device was outdated.

"This was an error," said Regence spokesperson Rachelle Cunningham. "This was something that we didn't realize it was a problem until it was brought to our attention and certainly when we did realize that we did everything we could to go back and make it right."

The $100,000 fine, plus 8 percent interest payments to the affected women, is the largest penalty against a Washington health insurer in recent years, notes KUOW.

To learn more:
- read the Seattle Times article
- read the Seattle Post-Intelligencer article
- read the KUOW article