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Our View: Misleading News Reports on Coverage Discontinuation

On Sept. 19, we were called by the MLive news organization to comment about a Michigan resident’s claim that his health insurance coverage was discontinued because of his undocumented immigration status.

The reporter contacted us late in the day, and did not provide us with the person’s name, or any other identification (such as the type of health coverage they had) that we could use to confirm the facts of the matter. Unfortunately, MLive rushed to publish the story that evening, and it was also picked up by the Detroit Free Press.

The news report was subsequently tweeted by a respected local activist, and shared dozens of times.

These reports implied that BCBSM had canceled the person’s health insurance.  This is false. In fact, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan does not retroactively cancel our members’ health insurance coverage following their enrollment in an individual health plan on the national health insurance Marketplace for any reason other than non-payment of premium.

Federal law stipulates to the qualifications of immigrants for health insurance coverage provided within the federal health insurance Marketplace. You can read the requirements here.

Had we been given time to respond to the inquiring reporter ahead of publication of this story, MLive would have been able to factually report that cancellations of Marketplace coverage due to non-qualification under the law are initiated by the federal health insurance regulator, not by BCBSM.

We respect news reporting as the noble and essential profession it is. But despite the intense pressures put on modern-day journalists to produce compelling and newsworthy content quickly, the reporting must be factual. And subjects of news articles must be given an opportunity to provide facts.

MLive has since corrected its story. But the damage has been done. Through exposure to incorrect news content and sharing of that incorrect content via social media channels, thousands of people have been exposed to the wrong information about our company’s involvement in this unfortunate matter.

As human beings who work for a health insurance company, we empathize with the situation surrounding the residency status and health concerns of the individual spotlighted in the MLive and Free Press stories. Our driving force at Blue Cross is to cover people. That hasn’t changed in 80 years. We can only do this important work, however, while acting in compliance with federal and state laws and regulations.

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