Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Opinion

Being a woman ended her health coverage

When Gina Presson came to me for her doctor's appointment three months ago, she was thrilled to finally have health insurance. Until five years ago this hadn't been an issue, but after a divorce she was taken off her husband's policy.

Gina has a full-time job as a producer at a local TV station but is an independent contractor and has been unable to afford individual insurance. Her sister, a physician, finally encouraged her to buy a policy this April because of her increasing risk as she reached age 50. This meant that she couldn't afford her son's college tuition, or books, and she had to borrow money from family to pay her taxes on her home.

Gina came to see me after dealing with hives on her skin, which had been infrequent for years but had become persistent for the past two months. Sometimes she even has swelling on her face. I could tell that she needed to have lab testing. I sent her for testing and gave her new medicines to help control the hives. However, before she could get this done she received a letter from her insurance carrier that her medical bills related to any gynecologic issues were being denied.

This happened because she now recalls that in a regular check-up shortly after she obtained insurance, her physician saw something suspicious. He asked for an ultrasound, which was inconclusive. She had developed irregular uterine bleeding that her doctor said was normal for her age. Her physician performed a simple procedure which helped to stop the bleeding and also tested for cancer.

The results were reassuring — no evidence of malignancy. Gina had two episodes of uterine bleeding over the past three years, which were likely related to peri-menopausal hormonal changes. Her insurance company cited this as evidence of a pre-existing condition that she did not disclose. Although they had previously approved the surgery, they then denied coverage and asked her to sign a waiver admitting this was a pre-existing condition, and accepting exclusion to her policy for all gynecological procedures for two years, which she refused.

Her policy has now been terminated and she has nearly $30,000 in medical bills from her procedure in May — more than she earns in a year. She is also unable to have the lab testing done, which I feel is critical in light of her symptoms.

Since when did being a woman and being peri-menopausal become a pre-existing condition? This sort of insanity will stop on Jan. 1, 2014. The Affordable Care Act will make it illegal for a person to be denied health insurance due to a pre-existing condition, so that merely being a woman will no longer be a "pre-existing condition."

Having access to quality care is essential for a healthy nation. Our current system is a disease management system — not a health care system. Most physician organizations see the ACA as a huge step forward in creating the kind of system where doctors and patients work together to create better health. Opponents of full implementation of the ACA have little to offer in the way of solutions.

Gov. Mitt Romney is running for president on a platform of repealing the ACA. That would mean that my 5-year-old daughter with asthma could be denied insurance. That would mean that my friend with breast cancer could have her insurance policy taken away for no reason other than developing a life-threatening disease.

It would mean that my colleague with an illness treated with monthly infusions of immune globulin would meet her lifetime cap as determined by the insurance companies and would fall sick with an otherwise avoidable infection. It would mean that I will pay more for an insurance policy simply because I am a woman. It would mean that insurance companies would collect our premiums and use much of it for marketing and CEO retreats while spending the least amount possible on the care of their beneficiaries.

And mostly, it would mean that Gina, who works hard every day and already collects food stamps, would likely have to file for bankruptcy because of a medical condition. She would be unable to receive the kind of care we all deserve.

Is this the America you want to live in?

Dr. Mona V. Mangat is an allergist and immunologist in St. Petersburg at Bay Area Allergy & Asthma. She wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.

Comments
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18