Can the health insurance industry get any more ridiculous?
First we heard about Alex, the 17 pound baby boy from Colorado who was turned down for health insurance for being too big, even though he was quite healthy. Now comes the story of a two year-old, also from Colorado, who was turned down for health insurance because she is too small. Not unhealthy, mind you, just tiny for her age according to insurer standards.
Aislin Bates weighs in at just 22 pounds, but according to her parents has suffered no illness beyond the common cold, although they have sought treatment for finicky eating. The parents’ attempt to foster healthy eating habits for their child, rather than being seen as a strong pro-active measure toward good health, is instead being used against them.
The family is seeking insurance in the individual market before their COBRA coverage runs out. Mr. Bates applied for insurance through United HealthCare because the family — including Aislin — was previously covered by them under an employer-based plan.
The powers that be at United Health Care could not even be swayed by a letter from the family doctor confirming that Aislin’s size is genetic and she is, in fact, developing normally.
Aislin is in the 3rd percentile; Alex falls into the 99th percentile. Not that it’s any better to discard unhealthy people, but refusing to cover perfectly healthy infants and toddlers because of their size is unconscionable.
In the boy’s case, after intense national media coverage, the insurance company said it would change its policy for large but healthy infants. It’s not the first time an insurer has done the right thing only when forced by public attention.
Babies too big, toddlers too small, too old, too female, too ill, too disabled… what is it going to take for it to sink in that insurers aren’t in the business of health care at all?
Time and again the insurance industry has proven itself to be driven by profit above all else, including human life. Is this an industry we want to continue to trust to regulate themselves? Can there still be any question at all that health care in America needs a major overhaul?
This Wednesday, a House of Representatives panel voted to approve a plan to make health insurance companies subject to antitrust laws. That would certainly be a step in the right direction, but it’s only one step.
Without a strong public option, profits will always trump people.
Photo: Centers for Disease Control