This post was written by Nation intern and freelance writer Fernanda Diaz.
One of the most appalling practices of the health insurance industry is to deny women coverage because of pregnancy, rape, domestic abuse or HIV medication–all of which have been discriminatorily labeled “pre-existing conditions” by some insurers. As the debate heats up over legislation about the “pre-existing condition” clause in many insurance programs, it’s crucial to remind Congress that being a woman is not a pre-existing condition.
The story of Christina Turner, uncovered by The Huffington Post Investigative Fund, reflects the staggering injustice that can result from lack of regulation of the grounds on which companies can deny coverage. Turner’s tale is not uncommon: she is a rape victim who was given anti-AIDS medicine after her sexual assault and was later denied coverage solely because of this preventative measure–insurers claimed that the HIV medication “raised too many health questions.” The company announced it might re-consider if, in three or more years, she could prove that she was AIDS free.
The less extreme cases are even more surprising. Under a federal law known as HIPAA, pregnancy is not allowed to be counted as a pre-existing condition–however, there are many loopholes, and pregnant women seeking individual plans or with slight abnormalities can be rejected despite this statute.
Health insurance companies take advantage of the American public simply because they can. Government needs to tell them to cease and desist with these discriminatory practices. The current effort to overhaul the healthcare industry must not neglect this institutionalized sexism, and you can help by calling on Congress to investigate these cases. Please contact your elected reps and ask them to consider these abuses and demand their redress as Congress continues to craft and debate new healthcare legislation for the American public.