Slow-to-pay insurers may become national issue

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

For The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., Hiran Ratnayake dug through more than 100 complaints filed last year against the state’s insurers for undue delays in payment. In them, he finds some key anecdotes and little hope that companies’ responses would speed up in the future.

State law requires that claims be paid within 30 days, and at least three insurers who do business in the state were handed significant fines for a “pattern of delays.” Ratnayake tells the stories of patients whose claims have been approved but who have made dozens of calls when their insurance companies don’t receive payment and other tactics that appear to be intended to delay payments.

Furthermore, Ratnayake quotes an expert who predicted that “delays will become more frequent as more people become insured under the [health care reform] act.” The act does not address prompt payment regulations, Ratnayake reports.

In addition to his local reporting, Ratnayake used HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ speech at Health Journalism 2010 to provide national context.

Sebelius said recently that the federal government would engage in “hand-to-hand combat” with health insurers over problems related to policyholders’ plans.

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