The U.S. Senate will be voting on the Baucus Health Care Reform bill today. I was watching the Today Show and caught the segment detailing how a health insurance company denied health insurance to a four-month old infant because he’s overweight. If this makes you do a double-take, it should. This little boy’s parents are both slender. The baby is breast-fed and, at his age, probably has not begun to take baby cereal, much less Twinkies in his diet. He’s 25 inches long and weighs 18 lbs. Sure, he’s not a Slender Sammy, but his parents aren’t stuffing him with junk food, either. News of the family’s predicament became public knowledge and the insurance company executed a prompt about-face, as well it should have.
As I was watching the Today Show, I was also reading my copy of The New York Times online. The first article I opened up (Democrats Call Industry Report Flawed) reported that officials of the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats disputed a report published this weekend by the president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, Karen Ignani. I won’t delve too deeply into the percentages and statistics. What I’m most focused on is a statement at the end of the article that Ms. Ignani made: She said her “biggest concern was that the bill would require insurers to accept all applicants for several years before the government had any meaningful way to enforce a requirement for people to have insurance. In that gap, Ms. Ignani predicted, many people with health problems are likely to enter the market.” (Italics added for emphasis.)
Uhh, and we rely on them to make informed, reasoned, educated decisions regarding health care and expenditures? My first point: Alex, the little “overweight” baby who was initially denied insurance coverage by his parents’ insurance provider should not be denied food when he is hungry. At this point, his food is breast milk. Period. End of story. No Gerber baby cereal. No Gerber green beans. No Gerber applesauce. Just breast milk. What is his poor mama to do? Tell him, “Sorry, baby, but the insurance company says you’re too fat. I have to cut back on how much I feed you so you become slim enough to satisfy them.”? If she were to do that, she’d have Child Protective Services ringing her doorbell. When the baby’s hungry, he’s supposed to eat. His body needs the food. And, coincidentally, his parents were conscientious and forward-thinking enough to add him to their insurance plan after he was born, knowing he would need insurance coverage for his well-baby checks, immunizations and those inevitable times when he comes down sick. I’m glad I saw that segment even though it made me mad.
Second point: Ms. Ignani, what are the “people with health problems” to do when health care reform is passed? Stand by the side of the road and say, “Oh, well. I have health problems so I shouldn’t even try to apply for health care coverage. Guess I’ll just have to look forward to a major health crisis and losing the family home.” What are people with epilepsy, diabetes, asthma, allergies or a heart condition to do? They’re told by their doctors (if they can afford them) to visit periodically so their conditions can be tracked and the doctors can determine if they’re getting better, worse or if they’re staying stable. Oh, I get it . . . let ‘em die without an advance directive (death panel). If they aren’t close to death, but they’re doing everything they’re supposed to be doing, and their conditions are under control, THEY NEED COVERAGE! Health care is far from affordable, much less cheap! The fee for an office visit alone runs to $85. That’s not counting tests and diagnostic work OR prescriptions.
It’s ironic that, on the day the U.S. Senate is to vote on health care bills, two news reports from two different sources are produced, and the health insurance industry comes out looking, well, less than compassionate or intelligent on both reports. If the insurance companies (and lobbyists) get their way, I feel really sorry for those with “pre-existing conditions”. If you (insurance industry) think about it, we are all born with the potential for this “shameful” potential of a “pre-existing condition”, according to Dr. Nancy Snyderman, the chief medical editor of The Today Show. In the report about Alex, the baby who was denied coverage because his parents’ insurance company deemed him “overweight”, Dr. Snyderman weighed in with the caveat that all of us, even “in utero” run the chance of developing some condition that you deem makes us “uninsurable”.
I think I’ll delete the job I held with an (unnamed) insurance company from my resume. At this point, I’m frankly ashamed to even admit that association with your industry.