A Centene unit on Friday was fined $1.5 million and allowed to resume enrolling customers in new Obamacare plans in Washington state — three days after being ordered to cease sales over complaints there were not enough doctors in the insurer's provider network.
A spokesman for the Office of the Washington Insurance Commissioner said Centene's Coordinated Care unit had agreed to a consent order with the regulator to resolve the complaints about the size of its networks of doctors, specialists and hospitals covered by the insurer's plans.
That deal — reached at the height of the Obamacare sales season — came after more than a month of repeated failures by Coordinated Care to fix the problem.
The insurance commissioner's office said $1 million of the fine will be suspended "pending no further violations over the next two years."
The insurance commissioner said Coordinated Care "admitted to not having enough anesthesiologists in King, Snohomish, Pierce and Spokane counties."
"According to the company's own data, its provider network is also seriously deficient in other categories of providers, including immunology, dermatology, and rheumatology," the office said.
"I'm pleased that we have reached agreement with Coordinated Care to correct its inadequacies," said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.
"They understand the seriousness of the violations and made a commitment today to correct them. We will be monitoring the company very closely to make sure that policyholders are protected and they receive the coverage they've paid for."
Centene had no immediate comment.
The controversy came at a particularly bad time for Centene. Friday is the deadline for signing up for Obamacare plans that take effect Jan. 1, and the week leading up to such deadlines typically see the highest level of sales.
On Tuesday, Kreidler sent Coordinated Care a cease-and-desist letter ordering the insurer to stop advertising or selling any plans for 2018 in Washington, and to stop enrolling any new customers other than newborn children or new dependents of existing customers.
Kreidler said that since last May, more than 140 complaints had been sent to the regulator "related to Coordinated Care's inadequate network, such as insufficient anesthesiologists and out-of-network charges."