Health Insurance Companies Charged Customers for Policies They Didn’t Know They Had

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Obamacare has produced yet another unintended and unwelcomed outcome for Americans: getting charged for insurance plans they didn’t ask for.


Nearly five million people who had health coverage were notified last fall that their plans were cancelled as a result of the Affordable Care Act.


Within many of those letters of cancellation, the insurance companies—such as Anthem Blue Cross—said the policyholders would be switched to a new plan unless they chose one and notified the insurers of their decision. Many people only read as far as the fact that their policy was canceled and didn’t notice the switch provision deeper in the letter they received.


In many cases, the policyholders selected a new plan and still got signed up for a second one by their insurance company—which automatically began deducting the premium from the individuals’ bank accounts if they previously had selected this form of payment.


The result: Americans paying for two plans when all they wanted was just one.


One person caught in this situation is Kevin Kingma, who told ProPublica in an email: “I and a number of other former Anthem policy holders are stuck in Anthem’s Kafkaesque nightmare as part of healthcare reform.”


In California, about 500 members of Kaiser Permanente had the same experience, according to company spokesman Chris Stenrud. Kaiser is currently contacting those subscribers to alert them to the charges and refund their money, he told ProPublica.


The California Department of Insurance (CDI) is looking into this problem to see if the insurers broke any laws by withdrawing money from consumers’ accounts for plans they didn’t choose.


“Moving a policyholder from one product to another would be considered a ‘material change’ that would trigger a requirement in law to provide information about how to cancel the electronic funds transfer agreement,” Janice Rocco, CDI’s deputy commissioner for health policy and reform, told ProPublica. “We did not see any notice of how to cancel an electronic transfer of funds in the policy cancellation notices, so there may be some violations of law in this regard.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Consumers With Canceled Insurance Plans Shifted to New Ones Without Their Permission (by Charles Ornstein, ProPublica)

Health Insurance Rates Skyrocket in Run-up to Debut of Affordable Care Act (by Ken Broder, AllGov)

WellPoint Lied about Justification for Rate Increase (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

BlueCross BlueShield Raises Rates, Then Asks Customers to Oppose Health Care Reform(by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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