Lawmakers to insurers: stop dropping sick patients

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats from three U.S. House of Representatives committees are urging top health insurance executives to immediately end the practice of dropping patients after they get sick, months ahead of the deadline under new healthcare reforms.

Although the law passed last month gives companies six months to comply, the lawmakers called on WellPoint, UnitedHealth, Humana, Aetna and other insurers to ban such actions - known as rescissions - except in cases of fraud or intentional misrepresentation.

Such a move “would further demonstrate a commitment to reliable coverage for your policyholders,” Democrats on the House Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor committees wrote.

The letter follows a Reuters report on April 22 that said WellPoint - the largest health plan in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association - used computer algorithms to automatically target women with breast cancer.

WellPoint has said its software looks for conditions patients may have had before seeking insurance coverage but does not single out breast cancer. It has called the Reuters report inaccurate, but a Reuters spokesperson has said it stands by the story.

On Tuesday, the Democrats also asked the companies to “immediately institute a policy of independent, external third-party review” to confirm fraud.

Letters were also sent to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Kaiser Permanente and Assurant Health.