Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Pre-Existing Condition

Today I am ranting. This rant isn't for me, specifically, or even for my sister Crasey, whose recent experiences were the catalyst for this post. This rant is on behalf of all women everywhere in this country under this god-awful, ass-backwards, lying-cheating-stealing health insurance system that would deny a young woman coverage for her birth control pills under the most egregiously inappropriate, chauvinistic, patriarchal, dunder-headed, and asinine regulation I have ever heard in my life.

Here's some background. Crasey just graduated from college this December. Not to brag, but this young woman is awesome. She graduated Magna Cum Laude, a University Scholar, with Honors and Distinction, some 200+ hours of community service, and a double major. She got a B+ in Walking On Water, but that's about the only class she didn't ace. On top of all that, she directed her studies appropriately. Early on she decided she wanted to work in PR or event planning, and chose two majors that ably supported that goal. Every summer between semesters she drummed up some internship or job that built her resume, and at each place earned nothing but the highest praise from her employers. In short, my friends, this kid is smart, a hard worker, a hell of a lot of fun, and prepared to take on the real world.

Before settling into a 9 to 5 job, however, she and her boyfriend of 7 years decided they wanted to see a little something of this world, and have both applied for Work Travel Visas to Australia, where they are moving next month to spend a year working and checking it out Down Under. Another laudable goal -- see something of the world before you're tied to a desk!

So here is the problem. Health insurance. And under the greater rubric of health insurance, a more specific problem. Birth control pills. And not to put too fine a point on it, the problem of the young, unemployed, un-wealthy trying to get appropriate health insurance to cover their health concerns and needs. It's not that Crasey can't get health coverage that will cover her BCP; she can. But the cost is some hundreds of dollars a month, and the girl just graduated college and has no money. The health insurance she can afford (which is still over $100 a month) won't cover BCP. You want to know why?

It's a pre-existing condition.

Let me repeat. The risk of becoming pregnant is classified as A PRE-EXISTING CONDITION. In other words, if I may be so bold as to read between the lines, getting pregnant is an illness. A genetic illness that you were just unfortunate enough to be born with. Sort of like sickle cell anemia. Being a woman = genetically ill.


But the problem is not just that one classification. You should see the byzantine line-diagram I drew to clearly understand Crasey's story as she was telling it to me. The flaming hoops of fire she had to leap through are enough to boggle the mind, and it's only due to her genetic predisposition to be unbelievably stubborn (see: pre-existing condition) that she got as far as she has.

So first step: how much is COBRA insurance for our father's policy, under which she is currently covered? TWELVE HUNDRED DOLLARS A MONTH. $1,200. At the risk of repeating myself, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? That's an effing HOUSE PAYMENT! So, clearly, not so much an option.

Next step, Crasey called up Blue Cross Blue Shield, where after sitting on hold for approximately 40 days and 40 nights, she was told that if she filled out a stack of paper that Crasey claimed would bury her for "weeks and weeks," she might be approved for 3 packs, just once. Fine, thanks so much, but since she'll be gone up to a year, that really won't be all that helpful.

Well, she thought, maybe I should just see how much the packs cost without insurance, so she called a couple of pharmacies to price check: between $50 and $60 a month. Or, as Crasey summed it up, "a utility bill."

She calls her doctors (OB, GP, etc) to see if anybody had sample packs she could take. No luck. She calls Planned Parenthood, and they don't carry that pill. But that pill is the only one Crasey can take that doesn't make her instantly nauseated, so it's that pill that she needs.

Crasey is an enterprising sort, and so she thinks to herself, well heck. I'll just call up the maker of the pill, explain my predicament, and see what they can do for me. So she hunts down (check this out,) the direct phone line for the Associate Director of Public Relations for Bayer (the maker of this pill), and called her up and left a message. So far, nothing back, but she's planning on calling back, maybe even posing as a reporter doing an exposé on the plight of young college graduates as they try to enter the job market and stay healthy and UN-PREGNANT in this economic down-turn. We'll see what happens.

I just want to head you off at the pass here, in case you're thinking, "well, why doesn't she just use a condom/diaphragm/rhythm method, for crying out loud? To that, I say, well, yes, you're right, she probably could, she may even have to. But why. Why should she have to when the birth control method that she and her boyfriend have finally settled on that works for them is a) available, b) accessible, c) legal, and d) provided for under all normal health insurance policies you would get through work? And more importantly, why is being a woman classified as a pre-existing medical condition? This entire situation strikes me as a perfect storm of an un-regulated privatized health insurance system and a social system that has deep roots in patriarchy and gendered inequality. Here you've got a young woman who is doing everything by the book, and is being systematically shut down in her quest to behave in a responsible manner while still trying to take advantage of the opportunities the American system have provided her. Her boyfriend, it might be noted, has no pre-existing medical conditions related to his gender, and his health care costs will be significantly lower as a result.

On behalf of my sister, and on behalf of all women in even remotely similar circumstances, I protest.


Somewhere across the world said...

You're sure are hot

H-SPO said...

Ya, you are a real looker. (i couldn't help myself).

I'm shaking my fist in the air in protest.

Should I call that Bayer PR woman too?

Mary said...

Wow- you brought up a very painful memory for me- but in a good way! when i was newly divorced with 4 little ones, I had no insurance and simply could not afford the pill from the pharmacy. I too only had one viable option, pill-wise...one that I had worked for a few years to find that really worked for me in more ways than just preventing pregnancy! When I asked my (now former) doctor about samples? He said something like, well now that you're divorced, why do you even need birth control pills?
Um what? As if its any of your business, they help regulate my very irregular period, they releive the awful cramps that I suffer thru, they help keep me sane and oh, yeah- I dont plan on giving up sex forever just b/c I'm divorced!
OK off my rant- why do insurance companies think its more cost effective to NOT cover BCP but cover pregnancy? I mean really...which is going to cost you more in the long run? Seems they are all bass-akwards.

Anonymous said...

W. T. F.

Really??? Thats seriously messed up.

I'm voting for super harassment of the PR lady at Bayer. Everyone call!

The Fairy King

Prunella Jones said...


And now as a parting gift, Bush wants to pass a law saying that health workers (such as pharmacists, doctors, etc) don't have to do anything they don't agree with and can't be fired. That's right, so if a pharmacist doesn't believe in birth control he can decide not to fill your sis's scrip should she be able to get one.

Nice, eh? Thanks GWB, you piece of crap.

Chent said...

Wow, this would be filed under, "WTF?"

Good luck to your sis!

Matter Of Fact Mommy said...

i guess having a uterus is a pre-existing condition.

not that you're asking, but Planned Parenthood is great for the uninsured masses. i used to frequent PP before i started my 9-5... she may even be able to get 12mos worth before she goes to Australia.

Cheasty said...

hey everybody, thanks for the comments, stories, outrage, and advice.

Anonymous said...

But aren't males pre-genetically disposed to dole out their sperm inappropriately, ad nauseam? wtf mate!


Anonymous said...

irony defined: most insurance plans cover viagra. and if men bled, tampons would be free, too.
go figure, eh?

Anonymous said...

irony defined: most insurance plans cover viagra. and if men bled, tampons would be free, too.
go figure, eh?

Anonymous said...

irony defined: most insurance plans cover viagra. and if men bled, tampons would be free, too.
go figure, eh?