Blumenthal criticizes Conn. Dept. of Insurance

John O'Brien Mar. 30, 2007, 2:18pm


HARTFORD, Conn. - Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has already scored numerous multi-million-dollar settlements with insurance companies.

Thursday, Blumenthal put his focus on another insurance entity -- the state's Department of Insurance. He says the department has failed to hold Assurant Health Insurance accountable for repeatedly denying consumers promised health benefits.

He said an agreement reached Thursday between the DOI and Assurant will result in patients who complained getting the benefits they are owed, and not much more.

"This order is tantamount to telling a thief to return stolen money -- but imposing no punishment," he said. "Patients will finally get the benefits that we vigorously fought tenaciously to achieve for them, but this order fails to impose the significant penalties warranted for Assurant's abusive, anti-consumer practices.

"This step is a tap on the wrist -- not even a slap -- and, even worse, may tie our hands in pursuing more aggressive legal action under insurance statutes."

Blumenthal said he had to prod the DOI to even investigate Aassurant, which was recently forced to pay $15 million in penalties in a South Carolina case.

Blumenthal says Assurant has denied benefits to consumes suffering catastrophic illnesses by improperly applying retroactive procedures to make it appear the conditions existed before the policy began.

"Cheating consumers out of promised coverage for catastrophic illnesses deserves strong penalties and consequences," he said. "We asked for an audit of Assurant's unconscionable denial of health benefits, but the Department of Insurance instead provided a meaningless agreement with the company.

"This agreement simply orders Assurant to do what it should have done already -- pay for the health care benefits it promised to patients suffering from serious illnesses."

According to a January report in the Hartford Courant, only 16 of 111 complaints sent to Blumenthal's office regarding Assurant were deemed justified by the Connecticut Insurance Department.

In the past, Blumenthal has taken on all kinds of providers, including medical malpractice insurance providers, and has had a part in several multi-million-dollar settlements.

In a couple of settlements last year, Zurich American Insurance Co. was required to pay $92 million to 16 attorneys general. Blumenthal's office took in $13 million for court costs, as the company admitted to no wrongdoing amidst allegations of bid-rigging.

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