Insurance Companies Cancelling Health Insurance of Sick Patients
With President Obama’s speech to Congress last night outlining the details of his overhaul of healthcare in the United States, one interesting point popped up - the fact that Obama would guarantee that insurers could not reject people because of preexisting conditions. Health insurance companies are increasingly citing the failure to disclose preexisting conditions as a means to cancel policies and deny benefits to people in need of care. The term for this is "Post Claims Underwriting". What this means is that the insurance companies will not investigate someone for verification of entitlement to coverage until after they are sick and need the insurance. Of course, if they then determine the person is sick but not qualified they cancel the coverage and the sick consumer is left with no insurance.
Insurance companies are using the term "rescission" to refer to the cancellation of insurance coverage due to a company being misled. Rather than trying to mislead companies, omissions of preexisting conditions seem to be honest mistakes by people filing out increasingly complex forms. There have been countless stories about how people have signed up for health insurance, only to have their policies later cancelled when they need care. No one knows how often policies are cancelled because of a variety of different state laws and policies in place, however, the practice has become rampant enough to result in numerous lawsuits and new regulations put in by states throughout the country.
In the past year and a half, California has fined the five largest insurers in its state almost $19 million for cancelling the policies of individuals who became sick. One insurance company even admitted offering bonuses to employees who were able to find reasons to cancel policies. President Obama has been trying to gain support for his healthcare overhaul in part tapping into consumer dissatisfaction with the insurance industry, an industry that has never been popular among the American people. His plan for healthcare overhaul includes restricting insurance companies from screening for preexisting conditions, however, this still might not save people from having their policies cancelled. With new regulations, insurance companies might not necessarily cancel the policies of those individuals with undisclosed preexisting conditions, however, a company might institute further preauthorization requirements on services for certain patients, which might discourage such patients from renewing their policies. Lawsuits continue to be instituted against insurance companies who have cancelled policies. Rather than fight fraud, rescission has devolved into a backdoor route for insurance companies to stop paying the medical bills of people in their time of greatest need.