Federal health reform proposals have been applauded for preventing insurance companies from denying coverage or varying premiums based on a person’s underlying health status, but an amendment that is in the Senate Finance bill could introduce a new way to discriminate against those with less than perfect health.
It would expand the ability of insurance companies to vary premiums, deductibles or co-payments based on health status factors such as weight, blood pressure, high cholesterol, waist circumference and others. People with serious illnesses and disabilities might only be able get affordable coverage if their doctor certifies that a health status factor makes it unreasonably difficult or medically inadvisable for the individual to satisfy or attempt to satisfy the otherwise applicable standard. High deductibles or co-payments could make it harder for people to manage chronic conditions.
This could also pose significant problems for low income people who might have more than one job, be managing work and family, or have limited access to healthy food. There are the individuals that need coverage the most to help them address risk factors for chronic disease and other health issues.