In comments Thursday to a group of reporters at the annual Association of Health Care Journalists convention, in Chicago, Sebelius said some administration officials are predicting that such “ongoing hand-to-hand combat” will not be uncommon in the future.
However, Sebelius also told the reporters that the insurance industry has proved receptive to another of the three-week-old reform law's provisions, this one requiring insurers to allow grown children to remain on their parents' insurance until age 26.
That mandate doesn't go into effect until Sept. 23, but many insurers have proven willing to start adding the relatively healthy twenty-somethings to their insurance rolls. “Frankly, we've been pleased that a number of insurers have said that's a strategy that makes sense, and they are going to accelerate that benefit,” she said.
In a sternly worded letter, Sebelius is urging WellPoint President and CEO Angela Braly to immediately halt a practice of revoking individual members' coverage after they fall ill. This practice will be illegal starting in September under the new health reform law.
Reuters reported that WellPoint targets breast cancer patients for underwriting investigations with the intent to drop their policies. Sebelius wrote that the Indianapolis-based for-profit insurer should “immediately cease these practices and abandon your efforts to rescind health insurance coverage from patients who need it most.”
Braly wrote in response to Sebelius that the secretary's letter and the Reuters story "grossly misrepresent" WellPoint's treatment of breast cancer patients.
"To be absolutely clear, WellPoint does not single out women with breast cancer for rescission," Braly wrote. "Period."
Reuters has since corrected some facts in the article.