California Attorney General Jerry Brown announced he will begin scrutinizing how health plans in California pay insurance claims, reports the Los Angeles Times. This move was based in part on a recent analysis published by the California Nurses Association that found six of the state’s largest plans rejected one in five claims during the past seven years – “State to Probe Insurer Denials.”
“These high denial rates suggest a system that is dysfunctional, and the public is entitled to know whether wrongful business practices are involved,” Brown told reporter Lisa Girion.
Brown joins other state regulators, most notably the California Department of Managed Health Care, responsible for policing the health plans. The DMHC, however, reacted defensively to the nursing association’s analysis, claiming it has “been very active in ensuring that providers of care should be paid fairly and on time.”
The insurance industry asserts that the analysis “mischaracterizes” claims data and “does not accurately reflect denials of care for insurers,” even though the numbers the association used to compile its report came directly from the companies own filings with the DMHC.
Although we and many others have frequently accused health plans of improperly denying claims, the Nurses’ Association analysis is the first-of-its-kind report to provide such concrete evidence.
We urge Attorney General Brown to use the powers of his office to conduct more than a cursory examination of this issue, perhaps resulting in something more than the usual slap on the wrist and innocuous fines typically imposed on the industry. Now is the time to institute structural reforms that could revolutionize health care in California, particularly since federal attempts to hold the insurance industry accountable have been compromised by the industry’s unprecedented lobbying. (090904)