News Release

The Real Death Panels

More than one out of every five requests for medical claims for insured patients, even when recommended by a patient’s physician, are rejected by California’s largest private insurers, amounting to very real death panels in practice daily in the nation’s biggest state, according to data released Wednesday by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee.

CNA/NNOC researchers analyzed data reported by the insurers to the California Department of Managed Care. From 2002 through June 30, 2009, six of the largest insurers operating in California rejected 47.7 million claims for care — 22 percent of all claims.

CHARLES IDELSON
SHUM PRESTON
DEBORAH BURGER
Idelson and Preston are spokespersons for the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC). Burger is a CNA/NNOC co-president. Burger said today: “With all the dishonest claims made by some politicians about alleged ‘death panels’ in proposed national legislation, the reality for patients today is a daily, cold-hearted rejection of desperately needed medical care by the nation’s biggest and wealthiest insurance companies simply because they don’t want to pay for it.

“The routine denial of care by private insurers is like the elephant in the room no one in the present national healthcare debate seems to want to talk about. Nothing in any of the major bills advancing in the Senate or House or proposed by the administration would challenge this practice.”

Claims denial rates by leading California insurers, first six months of 2009:

* PacifiCare — 39.6 percent
* Cigna — 32.7 percent
* HealthNet — 30 percent
* Kaiser Permanente — 28.3 percent
* Blue Cross — 27.9 percent
* Aetna — 6.4 percent

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167