WellPoint held refunds too long, report says

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said today that Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc. and several other providers of drug benefits kept overpayments too long.

The companies, which also include Minnesota-based UnitedHealth Group and Humana Inc., headquartered in Louisville, Ky., should have more quickly refunded the $4.4 billion in overpayments, the department said. The figure was for 2006.

Medicare has no protocol in place to determine when potential payments are significantly different than sponsors’ actual cost, according to a Bloomberg report.

U.S. Rep. Pete Stark, D-California, charged that the refunds amount to “multi-billion-dollar, zero-interest loans from Medicare.” Stark is pushing Congress to the role of private companies in providing Medicare benefits.

WellPoint told IBJ that it is eager to reconcile the differences. Creating bids for the new benefit in 2006 was difficult because insurers had too little information to support benefit designs or attractive premiums, the company said in a statement.

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