EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (CN) – WellPoint illegally manipulated its takeover of RightCHOICE to maximize its profits, a class action claims in Madison County Court. The class claims WellPoint sheared off the smaller and less-profitable Illinois RightCHOICE policyholders by forcing them to reapply for worse policies with higher premiums, forcing them onto unsustainable policies, or losing their coverage altogether.
WellPoint obtained approval for the takeover from regulators by assuring them that there was no plan to materially change RightCHOICE’s Illinois operations, the class claims.
But named plaintiffs Charlotte Phillips and Bob Myrick says WellPoint acquired RightCHOICE to get its profitable Missouri Blue Cross business, then shut down RightCHOICE’s Illinois operations.
That forced Illinois RightCHOICE policyholders to reapply as strangers for coverage by WellPoint’s Unicare subsidiary, to be automatically converted to Unicare policy with fewer benefits but at least a 250 percent premium increase, or to forgo coverage entirely.
The class consists of all Illinois residents who were covered by RightCHOICE health insurance before WellPoint’s takeover and were adversely affected by the shutdown of RightCHOICE’s Illinois operations.
It seeks damages for consumer fraud and deceptive business practices and restoration of previous insurance coverage. The class is represented by Mark Goldenberg with Goldenberg Heller Antognoli.
Defendants include WellPoint, Unicare Health Insurance and two affiliates, RightCHOICE Insurance Co. and RightCHOICE Managed Care.