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March 29, 2008

Health insurers to meet with state agency on rescission probe

California's largest health insurers, facing possible fines and other penalties for the way they sometimes cancel policies after patients pile up medical bills, meet today with regulators to discuss ongoing state enforcement efforts.

The meeting was called by the Department of Managed Health Care, which oversees health maintenance organizations and other types of health plans, because it was nearing completion of investigations into the cancellation practices of Health Net Inc., Kaiser Permanente and Blue Shield of California, said spokeswoman Lynne Randolph.

The department plans to discuss the standards to which it is holding the insurers' practices, she said, as well as remedies for problems identified in the probes of policy cancellations, known as rescissions.

"This is our opportunity to move forward and conclude this phase of our investigation into rescissions," Randolph said. "Our goal is to bring a quick resolution to this problem to protect consumers today from illegal rescissions."

Randolph said the results of the remaining three investigations would be announced soon but that the process -- including today's meeting with the health plans -- was confidential until then to protect the insurers' due-process rights.

The closed meeting has alarmed consumer advocates because it comes as the insurance industry is pushing a plan that critics believe could make it easier for sick patients to lose coverage through no fault of their own. But the department said the industry's proposal was not on the agenda.

California health insurers -- battered by newly aggressive regulators, a $9-million court judgment and stinging criticism from lawmakers, judges and consumer advocates -- are fighting on several fronts this spring in Sacramento and elsewhere.

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Posted by healthinsurance at March 29, 2008 07:45 PM