UPDATED: Congratulations to Murray Waas whose special report on insurers dropping patients with breast cancer has won the Barlett & Steele Award for investigative business reporting.
A four-month investigation, supported by additional reporting from Lewis Krauskopf, revealed that a giant health insurer had targeted policyholders recently diagnosed with breast cancer for aggressive investigations and canceled some policies. An exhaustive study of records, hearings and federal data, as well as dozens of interviews with experts, officials and patients led to the story, which was edited by Jim Impoco and Doina Chiacu.
We published the story in April and the reaction was swift. The Obama administration and Congressional Democrats urged insurers to end the policy known as rescission immediately -- five months before the new healthcare law would require it to do so.
Within days, Wellpoint announced it would stop dropping coverage for all customers after they get sick. The very next day, UnitedHealth Group followed suit, as would most of the health insurance industry in the following days.
“Reuters contrasted the upfront public stance of a health care company and its CEO to the reality behind the scenes, revealing the insidiousness of gate keeping by software,” said the judges. “This investigation led to government pressure and an industry-wide change in the practice of dropping health care coverage for patients after they became sick.” Read the full announcement here.