WellPoint unit withdraws over disclosure rift

November 21, 2007

WellPoint Inc.'s subsidiary in Connecticut will lose its contract to manage part of a $700 million insurance program for that state's poor children and their parents after the Indianapolis health insurer repeatedly refused to disclose information about its practices, the Hartford Courant reports.

WellPoint's Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Connecticut threatened to cancel the contract if it was forced to disclose rates it pays doctors and the company's practices for denying prescription drug payments, the newspaper reported.

Both the state's Freedom of Information Commission and a superior court judge upheld requests for disclosure by an attorney, a professor and state officials. However, Anthem and two other insurers appealed those rulings. Their case is now before the Connecticut Supreme Court, but oral arguments are not expected until next year.

Beginning Dec. 1, Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell said, Anthem and three other insurers no longer will make decisions about authorizing coverage or payment levels to doctors in the program, which is called HUSKY. Those duties will be handled by the state's Department of Social Services. The four insurers will only handle claims and processing.

Rell said Anthem and Health Net threatened to cancel their contracts within 15 days if they were forced to comply with disclosure laws. Anthem handles 44 percent of the HUSKY program's 325,000 members, according to the Associated Press.

To provide service after June 30, private companies, which will be required to comply with disclosure laws, are expected to bid on the HUSKY program.

Anthem spokeswoman Leslie Porras told the Courant, "Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Connecticut negotiated for months in good faith in an effort to reach an agreement with the state. We remain hopeful that we can come to a mutually acceptable agreement to continue to serve our HUSKY members."

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