Why I Wrote My Letter to WellPoint

how some insurers target women with breast cancer

By Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services
Photograph: Photo by U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

American families deserve to have the security of knowing that, if they get sick or are diagnosed with an illness, they can get the care they need.  Sadly, that couldn’t be further from the experience of too many Americans.

Yesterday, Reuters reported that the insurance company WellPoint has been targeting women with breast cancer and dropping their coverage.  This practice, known as “rescission,” is not new.  But it is wrong, and, thanks to the recently-passed Affordable Care Act, it will soon be illegal.

That is why I sent a letter to WellPoint urging them to immediately end this practice.  In it, I wrote: 

"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."

The Affordable Care Act’s ban on rescissions, except in cases of blatant misrepresentation or fraud, starts this fall.  But insurance companies don’t have to wait to do the right thing–they should stop this practice immediately.

The Affordable Care Act will give Americans greater control over their health care.  In addition to stopping insurers from dropping coverage if you get sick, the new law will also prohibit insurance companies from denying Americans coverage because of a pre-existing condition, or charging more because of health status or gender.  This will give American families greater health security in knowing that your coverage will be there for you when you need it most.


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