Monday, August 3, 2009

Health Care Stories: Minneapolis, MN

Nick tells us what it's like to be diagnosed while still being covered by COBRA.

My wife and I are currently in the last few months of COBRA from her last job. Both of us are employed by organizations too small to be able to afford to offer group health insurance (although we both receive money from our employers in the form of HRA/HSA contributions that we can use to pay premiums and out-of-pocket expenses). The problem is that both of us have "pre-existing" conditions that guarantee that we will be denied health coverage if we attempt to buy a policy as individuals on the open market.

In my case, the pre-existing condition is sleep apnea. I chose to get checked for sleep apnea because I snored and because my father has it. I am now successfully treating it through the use of a CPAP machine while I sleep. The bizarre thing about it is that I would absolutely qualify for any health insurance if only I had not sought diagnosis and treatment for sleep apnea - I have no other medical conditions, I am 34 years old, and I am a non-smoker. Sleep apnea is not dangerous - undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea is what is dangerous (heart valve damage, high blood pressure, increased insulin resistance leading to diabetes are all possible risks from untreated sleep apnea). Unfortunately, since I decided I didn't want to increase my risk of those diseases, I chose to "be responsible" and seek treatment. Now, through the craziness of the health insurance system, I am actually being punished for being healthier. The industry - when it argues against health care reform insists on values like "choice", "responsibility" and the "free market." In my case, those values have a perverse effect.

In my wife’s case, her pre-existing condition is pregnancy. We have a baby boy due in February. I'll let you fill in your own ironic "family values" comment about that.

Thanks for making this issue a priority.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Alissa said...

the sad reality of our health care system is that it would make a great sitcom for a comedy of errors type of scenario - if people's lives weren't being affected so adversely.