KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

WellPoint Draws Flak For Unfulfilled Promise To Help Uninsured

The health insurance company WellPoint delivered on only about one-fifth of a $30-million pledge to help the uninsured, the Los Angeles Times reports. "It was not the first time the nation's largest insurer cast itself as an agent of change. In 2007, just as Democrats took control of Congress, WellPoint pledged that its charitable foundation would spend $30 million over three years as part of a "comprehensive plan to help address the growing ranks of the uninsured." Yet, tax filings from 2007 to 2009 show the firms charitable foundation only gave $6.2 million for that cause. A spokeswoman insisted that Wellpoint met the $30-million goal, but that it is not apparent due to a "a complicated reporting process" (Levy, 3/18).

This news comes at a time when insurers' profits are under fire from Democrats seeking to bolster support for their health overhaul. The Hartford Courant reports, at "the heart of the debate is how profits should be built into a health care system that is a public-private hybrid - and whether health care should be a universal right in which profits aren't part of the equation." Insurers argue that they deliver "orderly… coverage by contract, giving a fair return to investors whose hundreds of billions of dollars in capital underlie the market. Opponents of that system say billions of dollars in income seems excessive as the ranks of the uninsured approach 50 million and more people are priced out of the system" (Sturdevant, 3/18).

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