Demonstrating insurers’ trustworthiness

DEMONSTRATING INSURERS’ TRUSTWORTHINESS…. Insurance giant WellPoint Inc. — the company planning double-digit rate hikes for customers — made a compelling promise a few years ago. Shortly after Democrats reclaimed the congressional majority, the insurer announced that it would use its charitable foundation to invest $30 million over three years as part of a “comprehensive plan to help address the growing ranks of the uninsured.”

That was three years ago. How’s that promise working out? Not especially well.

[A]ccording to tax filings, company promotional material and former executives familiar with the initiative, WellPoint never came close to fulfilling that pledge. […]

However, WellPoint’s public records indicate that from 2007 to 2009 the foundation gave less than $6.2 million in grants targeted specifically at helping uninsured Americans get access to coverage and care — barely one-fifth of what was promised and just 11% of the charity’s total giving over the last three years.

“It was just not something that the company really wanted to do,” said one former executive, who, like others interviewed for this story, asked not to be identified out of concern that discussing WellPoint could have adverse career consequences. “So it went by the wayside.”

A company spokesperson said the company fulfilled its pledge, despite evidence to the contrary. Asked for an explanation the spokesperson said the reporting process is “complicated,” but as the LAT added, “she declined to provide details.”

Keep in mind, it’s not that WellPoint was hurting for cash — it’s enjoyed steady profits over the three-year period — it’s just that it apparently didn’t feel like helping the uninsured as much as it pledged to.

Kevin Drum asked some reasonable questions: “Why bother reneging on this promise? Are they trying to confirm that they’re the scumbags everyone thinks they are? Or did they just not figure that anyone would ever follow up on this?”

This doesn’t have to be an either/or situation.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.