Health Insurance Insider: 'They Dump the Sick'

Sally Marrara, of Los Angeles, said the company canceled her policy after determining she never told them about back pain and a history of anti-depressant use. Marrara said the back pain was related to a hysterectomy that she had included in her Blue Cross application, while the anti-depressant use dated back some 10 years. She used the drugs temporarily, she said, to cope with her father's death.

Both Robison, whose son eventually underwent surgery, and Marrara, who was later diagnosed with lupus, are now saddled with thousands in medical bills. Each is suing the company.

"It's a total travesty," Robison said. "It's unwarranted and unconscionable."

Insurance companies argue that health care reforms that ensure coverage for those with pre-existing conditions should help tackle the problem of rescissions.

"In a reformed health care system, individuals and families will never again have to worry that they may lose coverage on the basis of their medical history," Karen Ignagni, the president of the health insurance company lobbying group America's Health Insurance Plans, wrote in a letter to Stupak.

Out-of-Network Agony

Today's Senate hearing comes three months after the Senate held hearings on concerns that health insurance companies are forcing consumers to pay more than they should for care from doctors outside the companies' networks.

The March hearings included testimony from a representative of the New York State Attorney General's office. An investigation by the state attorney general found that the insurance industry systematically under-estimates how much it should reimburse policyholders.

UnitedHealth Group CEO Stephen J. Hemsley said at a March 31 hearing that the insurance company stands by the integrity of the database -- run by UnitedHealth subsidiary Ingenix -- used to determine reimbursements and health care costs.

A report released today by the Senate Commerce Committee found that in addition to UnitedHealth, at least 17 other major insurance companies used Ingenix data.

The committee has claimed that evidence indicates that Ingenix data is faulty -- a claim the company has denied.

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