A new report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released August 11, 2009 indicates that health insurance descrimination is common. The report titled: “Coverage Denied: How the Current Health Insurance System Leaves Millions Behind,” examines the practice by insurance companies of denying coverage to, or discriminating against, people who have pre-existing medical conditions.
The report is based on a nationwide survey that found that 12.6 million non-elderly adults, or roughly one third of those who tried to buy insurance on the private market, were discriminated against in the previous three years. The insurance companies had determined they were ineligible based on a pre-existing condition, charged them higher premiums, or had refused to cover their condition. An additional survey found that 10% of people with cancer said they could not get health insurance coverage and 6% said they lost their coverage because of their cancer diagnosis.
According to the report, the practice of denying coverage was apparently not confined to serious illnesses. Even illnesses such as hay fever could lead to higher premiums, a denial of coverage, or lead to a set of restrictions in the policy denying coverage on any respiratory illness to a person with hay fever.
Additionally, some insurance companies would initiate a thorough review of medical records once an expensive condition is claimed. If in reviewing those records, a condition is discovered which was not reported in the application, it could revoke coverage retroactively for the patient in a process referred to as rescission. Companies are able to rescind a policy, even if the unreported condition is not related to the expensive condition or the person was not aware of the condition at the time of the application.
The report is available at www.HealthReform.org