Discrimination And Health Insurance
Until current health care reform legislation takes full effect in 2014
, individuals with pre-existing conditions will continue to legally be subject to certain exclusions and limitations in coverage from health insurance companies. However, despite legislation to the contrary, various types of discrimination continue to occur throughout the country in regards to offering fair coverage and premiums when it comes to health insurance.
A recent study has found that individuals with genetic conditions are actually twice as likely to be denied health insurance as individuals with other equally serious chronic illnesses. This population is also more likely to be subjected to higher premiums as well as higher deductibles. The same study also found that half of the individuals interviewed did not want to leave their job because they were fearful of losing much needed health coverage.
Past legislation has attempted to address this issue to some extent. HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) was partially designed to help ensure that health insurance is made available to all. Previous to the passing of the law, there was widespread fear of almost every employee to move to a different job as they could easily lose health coverage. With this act, most employees were put at ease with the introduction of COBRA and additional federal regulations regarding offering health insurance to new employees.
Unfortunately, with the economy as it is, employees are again fearful of losing their group health insurance, regardless of any pre-existing conditions. As companies continue to lay off workers and stop offering group health insurance benefits, more and more people are finding themselves without health insurance.
Another provision of HIPAA was to prevent, in no uncertain terms, the use of genetic information in the writing of any health insurance policy, whether group or individual. This type of information may not be used to determine eligibility or be treated as a pre-existing condition that may be subject to exclusions or additional limitations. In addition, if someone has been found to have a genetic marker for a disease, their policy may not be affected by the finding.
However, anyone that exhibits symptoms of a certain genetic disease or have been otherwise diagnosed by a medical professional can legally be discriminated against, along with anyone else with any kind of pre-existing condition. In addition, anyone with a strong family history of breast cancer or colon cancer is likely to be (illegally) considered "high risk," and as a result are subjected to the same limitations and high premiums as those with diagnosed chronic conditions.
One of the unfortunate results of permitting discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions is that insurance companies often take advantage of their ability to impose limitations. Those that do not reject an initial application will attach riders to the policy which make obtaining the necessary care essentially the financial responsibility of the patient.
With so many discriminatory practices in today's health care industry, it is the hope of many of those that have been downtrodden by such a broken system that the upcoming change in legislation will be a saving grace, changing lives for the better.
by: Casey Trillbar
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