California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris told insurance giant Cigna Corp. to stop selling health plans bearing the name of California's health exchange because it was deceptive.
Cigna opted out of participating in the Covered California exchange when it launched last year. But the company continued selling policies outside the exchange and labeled some of them "Covered California" plans.
"After the attorney general's office contacted Cigna, the company agreed to change the plans' previously deceptive names," said agency spokesman Nicholas Pacilio.
Under California law, insurers offering coverage outside the state-run marketplace must have some policies that match the benefits of exchange plans. Cigna said it used the Covered California name on those "look-alike" products.
Cigna spokeswoman Karen Eldred said "at the request of the attorney general, and after agreement from Covered California on a revised name, we started implementing the necessary systems and other changes."
The Bloomfield, Conn., insurer said it first removed the Covered California name from plans listed on the website ehealthinsurance.com in December. It didn't change the language on its own website until last week.
For instance, it was offering a "Covered California Bronze Coinsurance Health Plan" from $241 a month on its website and a Covered California Silver Plan featured at $272 per month. Now those policies are known as "myCigna California" plans.Covered California received a complaint about Cigna's use of the exchange name in November and referred the matter to the attorney general's office.
The key difference for customers buying health insurance outside the exchange is that policies bought there don't offer federal premium subsidies available in policies under the Affordable Care Act.
Californians can only receive subsidies based on their income by choosing among the 11 insurance companies in the state exchange. Open enrollment continues through March 31.
Micah Weinberg, a health-policy expert and senior advisor at the Bay Area Council in San Francisco, said he was surprised to see Cigna borrow the state's moniker.
"It's important for consumers to get clear information on which plans receive subsidies," Weinberg said.
In November, Harris ordered 10 websites to shut down because they violated state law by imitating the official site of Covered California.