Private Insurers Denied Lifesaving Care Before Obamacare

2017-07-03 – Every once in a while you see a story circulating in the weboshpere about a foreign national health service denying lifesaving care. The story is written with great sadness  about how the victim could have been saved but for the national health doctors deciding that the patient should “die with dignity.” You’ve seen these stories. They are all sad.

These are the death panels that you’ve heard about.

And it is common to imply that this is what goes on in Obamacare. It doesn’t. In fact, the truth is about as opposite as it can get.

The fact is that before Obamacare, private insurers and hospitals routinely denied lifesaving treatment and there was no one to second guess them. Obamacare put a stop to that.

Take one of the recent stories. A baby was born with a congenital disease that is normally fatal before the baby’s first birthday. There was an expensive experimental procedure that may have saved it, but the foreign health service said no and the baby died. Echoes of forced, post-natal abortion. [NOTE: I thought this story was sadly over when I first wrote it, but it is apparently ongoing. President Trump offered help . . . because it is possible in the United States.]

The fact of the matter is that American private insurance routinely denied experimental care. Not as a weird exception. That was the rule. Not just some insurers. All insurers. It wasn’t news because it happened all the time. It was particularly heartbreaking with cancer patients and AIDs patients because research was turning up potential treatments all the time. But they couldn’t access the treatments until the experimental trials were over and approved. And lots of people died.

Even if you were accepted into an experimental trial, your insurance would not pay. Even if you could pay the cost of the trial treatment yourself, your insurance wouldn’t even pay routine non-experimental costs related to the clinical trial.

Obamacare went a long way to stopping that.

It’s not perfect. Not all clinical trials are covered, but many are. But it’s a lot better than it was.

Here’s another thing you may not know about health insurance in this country before Obamacare. If you had a disease that was particularly expensive to treat, even if you had health insurance, they would stop paying once a certain dollar amount was reached. Like $1 million. This was called the lifetime cap. Once you hit the lifetime cap, that was it for you. Not a dollar more. Ever.

And you couldn’t go to another insurance company because you now had a preexisting condition.

Lifetime caps are now gone, thanks to Obamacare. And it’s not just the policies you buy in the online exchanges. It’s in your employer’s plan. They can’t deny you because you are too expensive.

Obamacare wasn’t about death panels. The death panels sat in corporate boardrooms of the private insurance companies. Obamacare was about getting rid of death panels.

I don’t think we want to go back to that.


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