Sunday, September 27, 2009

Coming soon to a press release near you

In an effort to reduce underwriting costs and improve efficiency, a coalition of American health insurers announced today that they will now consider being female a preexisting condition that would essentially eliminate all health insurance for women.

AHIP, a national association representing nearly 1,300 member companies providing health insurance coverage to more than 200 million Americans announced Friday that virtually all industry members had come together in a bipartisan manner to introduce and implement this broad cost control measure. “We are faced with a variety of differing state law requirements that force us to make this decision to achieve underwriting consistency,” said Karen Ignagni, President and CEO for AHIP. Recognizing that insurers across the country have been trying to avoid such a measure for years, charging women much more for care than men, Ignagni explained that this just wasn’t enough in a competitive environment that had to meet the demands of Wall Street. Recent measures to stop gender discrimination in insurance coverage have also required the group to "get ahead of these measures."

"In the past, our members have had to comply with a patchwork of regulatory requirements. In many states, we can refuse coverage because of previous cesarean section births, even though our own cost containment policies are what forced those women to have cesareans in the first place. Parts of the country allow us to rescind coverage if a woman fails to disclose that she is a victim of domestic violence, and we’ve taken some criticism for that. Rescission of coverage has worked in the past, but this becomes difficult to justify when we have to hire armies of investigators to comb through and find that single unreported pap smear that would allow us to cancel coverage. Do you know how many pap smears women get? In some states – but not all – we can refuse to cover birth control and still refuse maternity care. We know that this can appear to be an inconsistent approach, so we as a group have determined that it is in the best interests of our shareholders to simply stop covering all women."

Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) immediately applauded the measure as one helping American men. "I don't need maternity care," Kyl said. "So requiring that on my insurance policy is something that I don't need and will make the policy more expensive."

Ignagni emphasized that health insurance plans offered by their members have developed a new generation of strategies that are improving the quality of health care, including strategies to promote prevention and wellness to keep people healthy and reduce health care costs for everyone and taking unnecessary costs out of the system for patients, employers and taxpayers. To that end, Ignagni said, "This is just the next logical step. We had to find better ways to reduce costs, and this was found to be the best way to accomplish that goal in the face of the demands of our members' stockholders, to whom they owe a sacred duty.

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