These days we’re seeing an increasing consciousness about ‘mental health’ issues. We seem less aware of how such issues can affect insurability – or even employability. The same could be said about physical ailments. So when I think about the underlying problem, what comes up? The insurance industry. And the way we do things of course: “The system”.
There’s a thread running through each individual’s experience (story?), starting with an individual’s ‘symptom’ – whether physical or emotional – the doc has to come up with a ‘diagnosis’. Why is that diagnosis so important? Well, the doctor has to categorize the service he offered in order to be paid. For any prescription to be filled: category. For any insurance claim: category or diagnosis. And so it goes. Slots. Categories. Little boxes.
And this is where the trouble starts. Ever fill out a travel insurance form (for example) and come across a question along these lines?
During the past 5 years, have you been diagnosed with any medical condition, received treatment (including medications and consultations), or been hospitalized for any medical, mental, or nervous conditions?
Coincidentally, I’ve had two friends die weeks apart recently – both uninsured and uninsurable, in both cases because of what Americans call “pre-existing conditions”. The problem exists here too.
My friend A* had “schizophrenia”, but this had little to do with her death (though some believe her anti-psychotic meds could have contributed). No, her pre-existing condition was the heart-attack and quadruple bypass that occurred in her late forties. She was “lucky”. Her late husband had died about six years ago, leaving her well taken care of. Good thing he died first, right?
My friend R’s pre-existing condition was the Hepatitis C he’d contracted about 30 years earlier. Ironically he lived a lot longer than many who had no problem getting insurance. His wife also lives with a pre-existing condition that could happen to anyone; she is now a widow having to cope with both her condition, and her new financial straits. Talk about unfair.
It’s all about ‘risk’ and numbers – arithmetic. People are not numbers; but you’d never know it from insurance industry policies.
Of course the insurance industry is private, market-driven, for-profit, and I sometimes wonder if that’s appropriate. Do we need a long, loud, public discussion about the need for a new human right: the right to insurance?