The insurance carrier Centene misled enrollees about the benefits of its ObamaCare exchange plans and offered far skimpier coverage than promised, according to a class-action lawsuit filed Thursday.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington state, claims customers who bought Centene’s ObamaCare plans had trouble finding in-network doctors or hospitals and often found that doctors who were advertised as in-network actually were not.
ObamaCare requires plans to meet certain minimum requirements.
Centene covers about 10 percent of the ObamaCare individual market and is one of the largest insurance carriers that participates on the exchanges.
As many other insurers have pared back their ObamaCare exchange plans, or completely left the market, Centene has expanded. In some areas of the country, Centene is the only insurer offering plans for ObamaCare customers.
Centene markets its signature product — its three-tiered Ambetter plans — in at least 15 states, and covers more than 1.4 million customers.
According to the lawsuit, Centene targets low-income customers who qualify for substantial government subsidies “while simultaneously providing coverage well below what is required by law and by its policies.”
A spokeswoman for the company told The Hill they have not been served papers and only learned of the lawsuit Thursday morning.
“We believe our networks are adequate. We work in partnership with our states to ensure our networks are adequate and our members have access to high quality health care,” Marcela Manjarrez Hawn said in an email.
Narrow networks — insurance plans that limit which doctors and hospitals customers can use — are not uncommon, as they are cheaper than more expansive plans. But the lawsuit says Centene went far beyond the norm.
“Centene misrepresents the number, location and existence of purported providers by listing physicians, medical groups and other providers — some of whom have specifically asked to be removed — as participants in their networks and by listing nurses and other non-physicians as primary care providers,” the lawsuit claims.
According to the lawsuit, customers found the provider network Centene said was available was “largely fictitious. Members have difficulty finding — and in many cases cannot find — medical providers who will accept Ambetter insurance.”
The suit was filed on behalf of two Centene customers, but seeks class-action status to represent all customers who purchased Centene plans on the ObamaCare exchange.