The White House on Thursday announced it will investigate whether the federal government was aware that one of the nation’s largest companies that provides public health care has been falsely claiming that its health insurance coverage is available to women, the White House press office said.
“It’s our hope that this investigation will provide answers that can help ensure that women can count on the protections they deserve,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
The Obama administration has long called for better access to health care for women, and in 2015, President Barack Obama issued a directive requiring that federal agencies require all private health insurers to provide coverage to women at no extra cost.
The directive also directed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to investigate health insurance companies that do not provide gender-specific coverage.
In recent months, the Obama administration and several states have begun implementing measures that require insurance companies to provide gender identity-related information to enrollees, including names, addresses, birth dates, gender, and sexual orientation.
The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services (HHS) will begin a preliminary investigation into the company’s claims that it was offering coverage to all women.
“The OASHS will begin its investigation to determine whether the Federal Trade Commission and the FTC received representations or received evidence that the company was engaging in deceptive marketing practices, which could constitute a violation of the Lanham Act,” the press office statement said.
In January, the department announced it would begin an investigation into whether the company misled women about its plans for women.
“This investigation will determine whether, as a matter of law, the company violated the Lanam Act by misrepresenting the availability of health insurance benefits to women,” the White house press office continued.
The HHS spokeswoman added that the agency would make recommendations to CMS on how to handle the matter, and if the agency “would require that the Federal Health Insurance Program provide gender coverage.”
The companies that operate health care systems, including those with more than 500,000 employees, have faced growing scrutiny for gender-based discrimination in recent years.
For example, in 2016, the National Women’s Law Center filed a class action lawsuit against Anthem Health, which operates about half of the health insurance plans in the country, claiming that gender discrimination in insurance premiums had impacted women’s health care decisions.
In September 2016, Anthem, which has more than 40,000 workers, settled the lawsuit.
In October, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the company from discriminating against women.
The settlement with the National Woman’s Law Network, a consumer advocacy group, was reached in December 2016.