Taking a stand for women with breast cancer and all patients with chronic diseases

10.24.16

In 2010, a large health insurance company created a special algorithm to search its database of customers, locate breast cancer patients and target them for cancellation of their policies.

According to Reuters: “The women paid their premiums on time” and had never had trouble with their health insurance before. “They had no idea that WellPoint was using a computer algorithm that automatically targeted them and every other policyholder recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The software triggered an immediate fraud investigation, as the company searched for some pretext to drop their policies, according to government regulators and investigators.”

This type of discrimination continues today, but patients with kidney disease who need dialysis are now being targeted. The new “pretext” found by insurers to drop these people’s policies is their choice to use charitable assistance to pay for their insurance premiums.

In other words, insurance companies are targeting some of the most vulnerable people – patients with end-stage renal disease and who are struggling to afford their health care – and taking away their access to treatment, even though they are paying their premiums.

Some insurance companies are going even farther, threatening to cancel people’s policies if they accept “indirect” charitable assistance to pay for their premiums.

Back when the company WellPoint targeted women with cancer on its subsidiaries’ plans, experts noted that problems would likely persist despite measures put in place by the Affordable Care Act to keep insurance companies from discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition or chronic diseases.

“Insurers will find ways to undermine the protections in the new law, just as they did with the old law,” Peter Harbage, a former health care adviser to the Clinton administration, told Reuters. “Enforcement is the key.”

The Chronic Disease Coalition agrees.

It’s time for our state governments and federal government to stand up to health insurance companies and protect consumers. Please share this information and urge others to take a stand for people living with chronic diseases.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to inform, educate and highlight efforts to fight breast cancer in our communities.

Here are three financial assistance resources for women with breast cancer from Susan G. Komen:

1. The Susan G. Komen National Treatment Assistance Fund helps underserved women undergoing breast cancer treatment, granting financial assistance and support services to women of any age and at any stage of the disease. For more information, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636.)

2. CancerCare is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide free, professional support services to anyone affected by cancer. For more information, please visit their website by clicking here.

3. The Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF) was established in 1996 as a national nonprofit organization with a mission of “safeguarding patients through effective mediation assuring access to care, maintenance of employment and preservation of their financial stability.” There’s a direct financial assistance program available to insured patients to help with their co-pays. The assistance helps patients afford out-of-pocket costs. More information is available here.