In an amended civil complaint filed Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, prosecutors said WellPoint issued three “false and misleading” press releases in April and May to burnish its corporate image as it fended off assertions about its cancellation practices in a news story and criticism from the Obama administration that followed.
The prosecutor’s office contended that WellPoint continued to target women with breast cancer. It said the company also falsely stated that it had changed its procedures this year before the new federal healthcare law took effect. The law bars rescissions nationwide except in cases in which policyholders lie on applications.
Prosecutors acknowledged that WellPoint’s rescissions in California had slowed to a “trickle” but said the Indianapolis company continued to misrepresent itself.
“This is a company that seems willing to say anything — true or not — in order to maintain their profit level,” said Chief Asst. City Atty. Jeffrey Isaacs.
The allegations first came to light in April after a report by Reuters’ Murray Waas revealed that “tens of thousands of Americans lost their health insurance shortly after being diagnosed with life-threatening, expensive medical conditions.” WellPoint “specifically targeted women with breast cancer for aggressive investigation with the intent to cancel their policies.”
Interestingly, today’s prosecutor’s findings come just days after a Congressional report found that health insurers regularly rescinded policies of sicker patients to bolster profits.