Have insurance companies sunk to new lows?

22 October 2009

As you may or may not be aware, insurance companies have some pretty manichean arbitrary criteria to decide whether or not a particular procedure, treatment, or medication are covered, or to what extent. To give you an idea of how they operate, I discovered the hard way a few months ago that my insurance company (no names or they'll probably turn around and drop Lyssa and I like a bad habit, knowing those fuckers) informed me that a particular treatment "should not" cost $190us, but "should," in fact, only cost $71us. They then informed me that they would pay only $42.60us of that ideal $71us and left me to handle the rest after the fact. Multiply this by 52 weeks out of the year. One supposes that helping someone live life in such a way that they don't experience periodic screeching pain several times a day is not on their A list, or probably even the C list. They're also not known for being sympathetic to cystic fibrosis or multiple sclerosis patients, but that's a rant for a different time.

That said, this isn't even vaguely about me.

A couple of years ago, a woman named Christine Turner was slipped a mickey at a bar in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She woke up a couple of hours later on the side of a road, covered in cuts and bruises with strong indications that she had been raped while unconscious. She got herself to a hospital and checked over, filed a report with the police, and was given a prescription by her physician for a months' worth of a cocktail of anti-HIV medication on the off chance that one or both of her attackers were infected. A few months later, Turner lost her health insurance and applied for a policy elsewhere. The new insurance company took one look at her medical history and rejected her, stating that the anti-HIV medication marked her as too high a risk. If a couple of years went by and Turner showed no signs of infection they said they would reconsider her application.

This isn't an isolated incident by a longshot. In recent years it's become unnervingly common for women to be refused health insurance or have their policy dropped for rape-related reasons, be they treatment for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder due to the assault, prophylactic treatment for STDs, or STDs themselves. More and more insurance companies classify people who have taken anti-HIV drug regimens for any reason as ineligible for coverage regardless of how long they've had a policy or whether or not they ever showed signs of AIDS. Insurance companies love to treat what they term pre-existing conditions as get-out-of-obligation free cards, and their definition of "pre-existing" has curiously skewed to include things that happened after the policy was issued, such as the fallout of rape or even diagnostic procedures that are part of regular checkups. A number of physicians have gone on record as stating that this not sound policy but they don't have a whole lot of say in how insurance companies operate.

Rape is possibly one of the most traumatic things that anyone can go through. Society in the United States attaches a hideous stigma to survivors of such an assault. I'm not going to recount any of them here for fear that I might trigger someone down the line, but a simple web search will pull up as many as you've the stomach to read about. The denial of medical treatment or aftercare for an attack because it's "not medically necessary" is no better, I think, than the actions of the rapist or the people who deem it not only necessary but amusing to rub salt into the wounds of someone who has been violated in such a manner. The task of the insurance companies is to aid in the care of someone who has been laid low by medical misfortune, not fleece them for several hundred dollars a month only to not uphold their side of the contract if and when the time comes.