Suppose you are a health insurer in a state that does not allow you to discriminate against people who submit large claims. If you can’t legally dump the sick, what’s an insurer to do? Well, you can always dump the entire plan and everyone on it.
That’s what New York’s Guardian Life Insurance Company did when things got expensive for 37 year-old Ian Pearl, who has muscular dystrophy. One Guardian Life executive went so far as to call call high-cost patients such as Mr. Pearl “dogs” that the company could “get rid of.”
As Ian’s mother puts it, the insurance industry has “gone from risk management to risk elimination.”
Mr. Pearl wonders “why myself and others like me, who depended on this policy, paid premiums, and did nothing wrong, are suddenly targeted as dogs because we are disabled… disabled people are not dogs.”
A Guardian company spokesman said that was an “unfortunate choice of words. We certainly don’t condone it and it doesn’t represent this company. Guardian acted appropriately and in full compliance of state laws.” Indeed. A federal court has ruled that there is nothing illegal about the company’s actions.
Mr. Pearl stands to lose his health care benefits as of December 1, with his around-the-clock-care for type II spinal muscular dystrophy costing a whopping $1 million a year.
There may be nothing illegal about it, but it’s certainly immoral to cancel health insurance for an entire group of human beings simply to squeeze out a bit more profit. The health insurance industry enjoys loop holes like no other industry. In case there’s still doubt, that’s why greedy insurers need to finally be held accountable, and that’s why comprehensive health care reform can no longer wait.
Is this the kind of society we want for ourselves? One where the sick and disabled, and those who just don’t fit into the mold are simply eliminated from the system?
If you are still among those who feel safe and that it can’t happen to you, think again. You need not be sick or disabled; you could be dropped from your policy for no reason other than that you share it with someone deemed — by for profit insurers — as too costly to keep. Now there’s something to think about.
Hear Mr. Pearl for yourself, on this CNN report:
Note: Following intense public pressure, Guardian Life Insurance Company announced Thursday that it would restore coverage for Ian Pearl — but no word yet on the rest of the 500 people who shared the same policy as Mr. Pearl.