Over 50, out of luck in health care
WASHINGTON - I am a Republican who did not vote for President Obama, but I support his health-care initiative because I have just experienced first-hand our system's dysfunctional wrath - and it isn't pretty.
Recently, I left my job with the federal government - I was a political appointee, so my tenure was limited - and became an independent consultant. Although I have access to health insurance under the COBRA law, the premiums are extremely high and the coverage expires after 18 months. So I applied for individual (nongroup) coverage with CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the carrier that covered me while I was a federal employee.
I am a healthy 51 year old. I am an avid cyclist and play in an over-50 hockey league. I don't smoke or drink. During my last physical, my doctor told me that my blood test, EKG and other screenings had been "perfect" and that I was one of his healthiest patients in my age group. Apparently, being healthy and physically fit is not good enough for CareFirst. To my surprise, the company denied my application.
I have borderline hypertension that is well controlled with a minimum dose of medication, and I have mild stiffness in my left shoulder and right hip, for which I take an occasional Advil. This combination of "preexisting conditions" - conditions that millions of Americans my age experience - was the basis for a complete denial of coverage. Not slightly higher premiums (which I would be happy to pay), not a short-term exclusion for the preexisting conditions, but a flat-out denial. However, CareFirst was kind enough, in its rejection letter, to send me an application for a guaranteed coverage policy for twice the premium, with astronomical deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, and a $1,500 annual maximum coverage for prescriptions. In other words, even though I am healthy and can afford and am willing to pay high premiums, I can't get comprehensive individual medical and prescription coverage with this company at any price.
Read the entire op-ed at http://www.gazettenet.com/2009/10/23/over-50-out-luck-health-care