Today’s winner is insurance company Health Net. They get the award for the following.
LOS ANGELES – A woman who had her medical coverage canceled as she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer has been awarded more than $9 million in a case against one of California’s largest health insurers.
Patsy Bates, 52, a hairdresser from Lakewood, had been left with more than $129,000 in unpaid medical bills when Health Net Inc. canceled her policy in 2004.
On Friday, arbitration judge Sam Cianchetti ordered Health Net to repay that amount while providing $8.4 million in punitive damages and $750,000 for emotional distress.
The award came a day after the Los Angeles city attorney sued Health Net, claiming it illegally canceled the coverage of about 1,600 patients. City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo also said the company illegally ran an incentive program in which it paid bonuses to an administrator for meeting targets of policy cancelations.
Health Net acknowledged that such a program existed in 2002 and 2003 but was subsequently scrapped.
What this company did was outrageous.(The same may be said for the award in the case, but remember this wasn’t a jury that ruled. The company deserved punitive damages though I would have put it at about a million) I don’t think its an isolated case. To make a long story short in late 1993 I was first diagnosed with cancer and had my employer go out of business at the same time. Having no other choice I had to pick up a conversion policy with the insurance company my former employer used.
I had to make monthly payments. These I always sent registered mail. After a year of paying insurance this way and spending lots of time with doctors, the insurer sent me a letter a week before my next surgery saying my insurance was going to be cancelled. What for? Lack of payment. I had to take two hours away from work to send them copies of all the cancelled checks and mail it certified to the company’s offices in Miami and Jacksonville.
Less than 3 months later, another letter like the above arrived. I went ballistic. Telling Blue Cross Blue Shield in no uncertain terms they were to update my account immediately or I’d bring a lawyer and the local news media down on them. What happened? I got a letter of apology from BCBS.
There are Health insurers who will screw people with serious illnesses. Health Net got what they deserved from the judge, but I will top it off by making them today’s Knucklehead of the Day.