When I made this blog back in April, I intended to only write about non-human primates. But, deep, deep down in my self-important being, I really also wanted to be able to talk about human primate issues. Over the last few years from the courses I’ve taken at my university, I’ve really become passionate about primates, but also about equality for everyone and healthcare issues. I feel like I’ve struggled with finding a voice on this blog–do I want to be taken seriously from an academic perspective? Absolutely. But I also badly wanted to be able to share my opinions about cultural and societal things beyond primatology. I don’t know why I totured myself about this because I am studying Anthropology and human primates are primates too!
That said, something came to me today that made me definitive in this switch. Someone passed on this story to me from NPR.
The six-month anniversary of the new health law marks the official effective date of a raft of new consumer protections, including a ban on most so-called rescissions. That’s the insurance industry practice of revoking an insurance policy retroactively, after a policyholder has racked up hefty medical bills.
Chris Peterson is all too familiar with the practice. The Clear Lake, Iowa, hog farmer not only had his health insurance policy rescinded in 2007, but several months later, his wife’s policy was rescinded as well.
Peterson said it began when his insurance agent told him he could get a cheaper policy. He jumped at the chance. And he didn’t try to withhold any information as he and his agent filled out the lengthy application.
So here we have a hog farmer and his wife who had their policies rescinded. I bet they withheld something really scandalous! Well, let’s keep reading and find out.
“He sat right here at the table, and I said, ‘Let me go get my pills,'” Peterson says. “And some of them were controlling your blood sugar; keeping it down. He wrote stuff right down in the application.”
Peterson didn’t think much more about it until more than a year later, when he had surgery to repair a small hernia — surgery for which he got insurance company preapproval in writing.
But he began to worry when the hospital kept sending him bills. He wondered why the insurance company wasn’t paying them. Months later, he got his answer, in the form of a letter from his insurer, American Community Mutual Insurance, “stating that they were rescinding my insurance, and that oh, by the way, all these bills are now yours.”
The company said Peterson had failed to disclose his blood sugar problem.
At first, it allowed his wife to keep her policy, but about eight months later, Peterson says, after she sought treatment for a minor heart problem, it rescinded her policy, too. The reason: “There was an inch variance in height,” he said. “And then she had a variance of 5 pounds in weight. And at the end of the letter, they claimed she lied on the application.”
… oh. Really. A blood sugar problem that his agent knew about and a discrepancy in height and weight.
Considering this was back in 2007, previous to the Obama administration and the health insurance legislation, this doesn’t surprise me too much on that front given that three major insurance companies testifying in 2008 admitted to rescinding 19,776 policies from 2003-2007 but was considered to be undercounted as one of the companies didn’t provide data from 2003-2004 (Waxman) . High blood sugar is a pre-existing condition. Hernias are also considered to be pre-existing conditions.
What really makes me reel is rescinding the wife’s coverage based on an one inch and five lb. variance. Those are extremely small numbers to be working with, especially based on those factors. One inch is a variant easily explainable by how the original height was taken: did she have her shoes on, shoes off? Was her hair up, down? And then, when they had taken the information at the visit which caused the rescission, were those exact same elements at play? And for the weight, too, was she wearing her shoes? Did she have on other items which may have added weight (e.g. earrings, heavy clothing, etc.)?
But more importantly, I’m curious for what this kind of line of thought sets precedence for. And more specifically, fatphobic precedence.
Here’s a theoretical example: say a woman has a hysterectomy. A hysterectomy entails either partial (removal of the uterine body while leaving the cervix intact) or complete (removing the body, fundus, and cervix of the uterus). A side effect of a hysterectomy is that a woman may gain weight, as she has had a hormone-responsive sex organ removed. Thus, there is a sharp decline in estrogen as compared to androgens. In addition, decreased metabolic rates may also play a role in weight gain depending on the woman’s age and activity levels. This is a common side effect.
Let’s say after two months, the woman develops a life-threatening infection at the site of the surgery. She has also gained 20 lbs. since the surgery and she goes to the hospital to be taken care of. If her insurance finds out about this disparity between her original claim and her current weight largely due to her surgery, is (or should) this considered a pre-existing condition?
Under the new legislation, pre-existing conditions are supposed to be exempt from rescissions but I’m still curious what wiggle room will be attempted from some insurance companies. After all, some companies did reward some of their agents for rescinding policies to save the company money (Waxman) …
Letter from Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Chairman, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to Members and Staff of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations (June 16, 2009).