Friday, November 16, 2012

Beware of pre-existing conditions

Four years ago, a Minnesota father donated a kidney to his daughter. The donation allowed her to stop three-times-a-week dialysis and return to a normal life. The donation also allowed his health insurance company to drop him from coverage this year, citing “chronic kidney disease,” a pre-existing condition. 

Insurance companies have a long-standing practice of denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. The practice lowers the risk that premiums won’t cover payouts so it makes financial sense. However, it often creates situations that are egregious violations of what most would consider common sense as well as simple decency and fairness. 

Since passage of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in 2010, supporters have touted the elimination of insurance companies’ ability to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions as one of the new program’s major benefits.

The problem is that this is one of the features of the act that do not take effect until 2014. This father with one kidney is just out of luck and will have to pay larger premiums and higher deductibles for high-risk coverage for two more years.

The delays negotiated into passage of Obamacare have one thing going for them. They are giving us plenty of time to appreciate why substantial reform in how health care is paid for in the United States is critical.

In 1963-64, high school debate contests considered the topic: “Resolved: That Social Security benefits should be extended to include complete medical care.” We have kicked this particular can down the road long enough. The year 2014 cannot come too soon.



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