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Cigna, Blue Shield of Calif. sued for 'bait and switch' scheme


The pushback against narrow networks that's sweeping the nation continues in the form of legal action as a consumer group filed lawsuits against Cigna and Blue Shield of California on Thursday.

In two separate lawsuits, Consumer Watchdog alleged that Cigna and Blue Shield of California misled consumers with a "bait and switch" scheme. Their plans offered inadequate provider networks and incorrectly advertised which providers were in network, and when consumers learned that their doctors weren't covered in the plans, it was too late to switch insurers.

"Blue Shield and Cigna lied to patients about the most important aspect of their healthcare plans: which doctors and hospitals they could visit under their new health coverage. As a result, many patients were left without coverage when they needed treatment," Laura Antonini, staff attorney for Consumer Watchdog, said in a statement.

Additionally, Consumer Watchdog claimed Cigna sold its coverage as Covered California plans even though it didn't participate in the state's health insurance exchange and weren't supposed to label their plans that way.

And Blue Shield of California allegedly violated state laws by not providing its new enrollees any proof of insurance for up to three months. Consumer Watchdog added that Blue Shield forced consumers into excessive waits when they called its customer service phone lines to complain about the networks or proof of insurance.

In a similar lawsuit, Consumer Watchdog claimed California's Anthem Blue Cross mislead members about whether physicians and hospitals were participating in new plan networks, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- here are the Consumer Watchdog statement and lawsuits

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