Medicare bars WellPoint from adding patients

BLOOMBERG NEWS

Health insurer WellPoint Inc. has been barred from adding customers to Medicare plans after it denied prescription drugs to the elderly, endangering their lives, the government said Monday.

The sanctions, outlined in a letter to WellPoint from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, followed a "sharp" increase in consumer complaints, the agency said. Elderly customers were stopped from receiving essential prescription drugs, and some were overcharged because of computer mistakes, the government said.

"WellPoint's conduct poses a serious threat to the health and safety of both its prospective and current Medicare beneficiaries," the agency said in the letter.

The number of complaints jumped in the last 12 days, Medicare said.

WellPoint is the parent company of Woodland Hills-based Anthem Blue Cross of California, the state's largest for-profit health insurer.

WellPoint did not immediately comment.

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