Stop Stepping on My Healthcare

It’s bad enough that I am considered “too fat” to get insurance, that no matter what healthy habits I choose the only way for me to currently qualify is to do something that research shows is very likely impossible.   But lately there have been a series of decisions that seem to be attempting to take our healthcare out of our hands.

I wrote about the controversy around religion and contraception for iVillage last week.  Now Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. has offered a “rights of conscience” amendment that would let any employer deny any part of your heath care coverage due to ‘ religious beliefs or moral convictions’. The language from the full amendment reads:

“Nothing in this title (or any amendment made by this title) shall be construed to require an individual or institutional health care provider, or authorize a health plan to require a provider, to provide, participate in, or refer for a specific item or service contrary to the provider’s religious beliefs or moral convictions. Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, a health plan shall not be considered to have failed to provide timely or other access to items or services under this title (or any amendment made by this title) or to fulfill any other requirement under this title because it has respected the rights of conscience of such a provider.”

So I imagine it would be open season on STD screenings and treatment, treatment for HIV contracted by gay men, contraception for all women, and us fatties.  Fat has become a moral issue in society – despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary we are blamed for everything from any disease we happen to get, to healthcare costs in general, to global warming. So what happens when the CEO decides that all fat people are sinful gluttons and that we don’t deserve any healthcare except stomach amputations?

I received a response to the story on Fox News Atlanta about the Billboard Project from a person who said that he is a pediatric RN.  He asked:   “Why should responsible citizens have to pay for the healthcare of those that refuse to take care of themselves????”

The thing is that “Personal Responsibility” does not mean that we are personally responsible for doing what other people think we should and it’s quite a slippery slope when we start to decide whose healthcare we should pay for.  Should vegans only have to pay for the healthcare of other vegans?  I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs – should I not have to pay for the healthcare costs of those who do?  As a professional competitive dancer I train strength, stamina, flexibility, and dance 15 hours per week, should I not have to pay the healthcare costs of thin people who are sedentary?  What about people who choose stressful jobs and don’t get enough sleep? What about people who choose to mountain climb, BASE jump,  bungee jump, luge, or not look both ways before they cross the street?  What about people who speed, or chose cars that have less safety features?  Who deserves healthcare?  The answer is that we do our best to give people access to the foods that they want to eat,  safe movement options that they enjoy,  and appropriate evidence-based healthcare, and then back off and respect people’s choices as we want our choices to be respected.

 

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on February 21, 2012 at 3:08 am  Comments (27)  

27 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “It’s bad enough that I am considered “too fat” to get insurance, that no matter what healthy habits I choose the only way for me to currently qualify is to do something that research shows is very likely impossible. But lately there have been a series of decisions that seem to be attempting to take our healthcare out of our hands.”

    If my insurance company ever found out about my Cerebral Palsy, they’d drop me. And I’d become permanently uninsurable (because since CP is a brain injury that happens before, during, or shortly after birth, it’s a pre-existing condition!). Never mind the fact that I don’t have any health problems related to the CP (well, maybe the bursitis in my left hip… but that might have happened anyway, who knows?) and that if you met me you’d never even know that I have it. Funny how people would look at the two of us together and say that you’re the unhealthy one, even though I’m the one with the bursitis and high blood pressure! :p

    It’s not fair to penalize people for things that are beyond their control. Especially when there’s absolutely no real evidence to back up any of it.

  2. A pediatric RN?!?! I seriously threw up a little bit when I read that line. How terrifying that someone so ignorant (and oh so many other descriptive words I will refrain from), be “caring” for children?!? Ragen, I’m sure glad you’re here to provide some level of reason!

  3. I have been a follower/lurker for a few months now. I just wanted to tell you that your blog has been truly inspirational and very helpful to me. And I am looking forward to your presentation tomorrow!

    Daniella

  4. I have begun to see more calls to deny people healthcare on the basis of perceived unworthiness lately. I don’t think people know exactly what it is they’re calling for – refusal to treat an old lady because her stroke was caused by her being a smoker once? Refusing to treat a young man with a broken spine because he drove his car recklessly? These are both common scenarios. These proposals have to be fought tooth and nail, because it’s not that people really care about fat people or smokers sucking up their dollars. It’s an attack on the right of citizens to be cared for by one another. There seem to be moves afoot to dismantle civil society. Maybe it’s a sign of social distress, but it’s a scary one.

  5. I was under the impression that pre-existing condition discrimination was made illegal by the last round of health care reform. I recently got new insurance and they didn’t ask that I submit anything about pre-existing conditions, when I asked the HR person why they said that companies couldn’t do that anymore.

    They will just do sneaky things to get around the laws until they are eradicated and replaced by socialized medicine. They have to try and make a profit, period. The companies themselves aren’t made of evil people, but the rules of the system they exist in force people to do these things. Even the politicians who are trying to push that reform are likely in the pockets of people who will profit from the law being passed. If those people didn’t try to get those laws passed they would get replaced by someone who would. And so it goes.The day when all this injustice is over will is already way overdue…

    • I have never been asked for anything about pre-existing conditions when purchasing insurance through an employer or a school either, so I think (someone correct me please!) that there’s a difference between getting insurance through your employer or school (as many college students do) and trying to get insurance all by yourself. Most of the time, when I hear about someone being denied health insurance because of something like BMI or a pre-existing condition, it’s when that person is trying to buy insurance individually rather than going through an employer or school.

      The last thing I heard about the laws and health care reform was that denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions would be officially illegal in 2014, but I may have misunderstood (and it also assumes that the current reforms don’t get overturned in the meantime, I imagine).

  6. Last time I heard that sort of comment “I’m young and healthy, why should I spend money on healthcare for people who don’t take care of themselves”, it was from a young (Republican) man drinking alcohol, and for brunch to boot :-). Taking care of yourself is all in the eye of the beholder.
    And no amount of taking care of yourself has led to eternal life so far, as far as I know but maybe I missed something??

  7. They will just do sneaky things to get around the laws until they are eradicated and replaced by socialized medicine.

    Coming from a country where healthcare is funded through a central tax and is mostly free at the point of demand fat phobia as a backdoor rationing by the back door is creeping in over here.

    That said, I still wouldn’t fancy an insurance company based system as better overall. To me, the issue goes to the heart of the way the practice of medicine is designed,

    In the great era of “magic bullet” medicine patients have been trained to become so passive that it is becoming intolerably costly.

    But instead of dealing directly with these issues -to a certain extent, patient passivity=professional power-certain targets are being picked out, fat people included.

  8. From what I know about the healthcare system in America, it sucks sweaty donkey balls. Medicare here in Australia could do with some serious reform, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Denying affordable healthcare to anyone is inhumane, pure and simple.

    • Yeah. We live in a sort of backwards culture where half the country believes that the government should be almost non-existent and should ask nothing of it’s citizens (especially not the downtrodden wealthy ones), except when it comes to who you can marry and what girls can do with their bodies. The government should have complete control over that.

      Our healthcare system does blow big time, but the mentality is that if you can’t afford it (or like this post said, if they find something wrong with you) you don’t deserve it.

      America IS an amazing country, and to be fair we have a lot of people over here. It’s not as easy to give affordable health care to well over 300 million people as it is to give 22 million people the same, but the fact that some people are so opposed to even trying is sad to me.

  9. Insurance companies are just waiting to deny for ANY reason. My insurance company tried to deny my claim for breast cancer in 2011 because I was diagnosed with a benign cyst in 2006…in the other breast.

  10. This is one of those situations that makes me wish America as a whole was more willing to get her head out of the sand, actually LOOK at what the rest of the world is doing, and be willing to learn from places that do certain things better than we do rather than just assuming we do everything perfectly and the rest of the world should be following OUR example.

    I have lived in Ireland and Japan and I have lots of friends in both places, as well as other friends throughout Europe. The Irish and Japanese health care systems aren’t perfect. My friends in those places tend to agree with me on that and my friends elsewhere in Europe would say the same thing about their own health care systems. But every single one of them has been absolutely appalled that it even occurs to supposedly civilized humans beings to deny other human beings health care based on weight/BMI or pre-existing conditions. The fact that such things actually HAPPEN completely blows their minds. This is not how civilized people should treat one another. Now, getting back to my first paragraph, I know it wouldn’t be possible (or perhaps even desirable) to import the Japanese or Irish or any other health care system to the US with no changes. But surely there are enough examples of working health care systems in the world to study and learn from.

    I really don’t understand the massive hate-on so many of my fellow Americans seem to have for each other. I mean, it seems to be that you have to be able to really hate and dehumanize other people in your mind to be able to even think of denying them something as basic as health care.

  11. I’ve been on BCP for 17 years for PCOS. I’ve only needed it as birth control 3 of those years. I have fibro and am on BCP to have fewer periods. Period with PCOS & fibro = 10 days in the bed. So if I worked for a Catholic hospital how would I get treatment for that?

    I just don’t see how my personal health should be anyone’s business but mine & my doc’s. If my doctor says I need something then it should be covered. End of story! I understand why some people have religious problems with contraception. If I had different plumbing I might not have chosen to use it myself. Not my business to decide that for anyone else. Not even my place to have the thought, “this is what they should do.” I’m not them; I can’t decide that. Making a rule to force people to adhere to your morals doesn’t make them “moral;” it just makes them mad!

    • Yep. I don’t use my birth control pill as birth control (the sterilization managing that quite well on its own, thank you) but rather to keep myself from bleeding to death as my endometriosis might like some months.

      There are, of course, a lot of other things “could try” — most I have tried or will not try (yet) for various reasons. Those reasons are complicated and personal — and I shouldn’t really have to go through all of them to people when I’m explaining why I use hormonal birth control.

  12. I was also born with cerebral palsy *& I have a noticeable limp, one arm & leg shorter than the other, serious motor skill & balance issues, I hold my left arm up if I am not carrying anything, etc. No one needs to see me for more than a minute to know that I have a disability, though I am & have been able to care for myself & do most things I wanted to do, aside from sports & other physically demanding, difficult things. I have always had health insurance & I have also been fat for nearly all my life. The insurance did come through my husband’s job, it is true, but the insurance was there. We are retired & on a fixed income now & my husband’s employer changed insurance companies a year or so before he retired. The coverage was far inferior to what he had had before (he still has what passes for health insurance from them, since he had worked for them, a large hospital, for 41 years). We are not denied coverage, & my husband has medicare, but we are both very fortunate to so far been in very good health & to have had very few health issues over the years & little need to use insurance. They do want to pay for less & less, & the new insurance provider, CIGNA, wanted all the employees to fill out personal health/lifestyle forms, & they also love to have the company nurse send employees letters & call on the phone in an attempt to tell us how to live. I told my husband we should not fill out that form, since it was not mandatory, & I wish we had not, because it does seem to cause them to believe that they have the right to try to ‘nanny’ people. The irony for me was that, in giving information about myself, I was scrupulously honest about my history, how little medical care I have needed, my eating & exercise habits, been non-drinking & non-smoking, & needing no prescriptions, but I gave my weight as 50 less than what I currently weigh test just how far the weight bigotry & conflation of health/weight is carried. I was then informed that the insurance company believes that a woman in her 60’s, who is 5’6″ & weighs 165 pounds, should be living on a diet.

    Needless to say, I do not answer any of the letters or the phone calls from Nanny Nurse. I live my own life, own my own body, & pray for continued good health at least until I am old enough to qualify for Medicare.

    • “I was also born with cerebral palsy *& I have a noticeable limp, one arm & leg shorter than the other, serious motor skill & balance issues, I hold my left arm up if I am not carrying anything, etc. No one needs to see me for more than a minute to know that I have a disability, though I am & have been able to care for myself & do most things I wanted to do, aside from sports & other physically demanding, difficult things. I have always had health insurance & I have also been fat for nearly all my life.”

      You’re very lucky! I’ve never been denied health insurance, but I was told that losing coverage was a possibility/probability if I disclosed about the CP. So I don’t. :p

      I also have balance issues. I’m able to trip and fall over completely flat surfaces. It’s like some kind of bizarre superpower!

  13. “What about people who choose to mountain climb, BASE jump, bungee jump, luge, or not look both ways before they cross the street?”

    I agree that this is a valid question, but it’s kind of a frustrating parallel for those of us who have hereditary diseases and also happen to be fat. Diabetes goes back several generations on one side of my family – it’s not certain that I could have prevented it even with the healthiest of lifestyles. So it’s not really a parallel with people who engage in risky behaviors.

    • You’re absolutely right Jane. I wasn’t trying to create a parallel, just to say that even if we take his argument at face value the slope is still too slippery.

      ~Ragen

  14. This scares me hugely. Many UK people think the latest round of reforms the Conservatives are trying to bring in (against the will of the majority of medical professionals and the public) will push us more in the direction of the US – i.e. force anyone who wants decent treatment to get private insurance, with the restrictions that implies, and leave the NHS itself as the most basic of services for those who can’t afford anything else.

    Even before that happens, we have plenty of people in the UK who demand that because taxpayers’ money is paying for everyone’s healthcare, we should refuse to treat those who ‘don’t take care of themselves’. Fat people and smokers are top of their list. There are, in fact, already restrictions on certain types of surgery (like joint replacements) for people over a BMI of 30 in some areas here, but I’m sure many of these self-righteous folks would love to see a general withholding of essential treatment from those they deem ‘unworthy’.

    It’s taken a new twist now: recently I’m seeing a spate of articles claiming that being fat ’causes’ dementia, or at least, cognitive decline. The care of our (increasing number of) elderly people is the biggest single slab of NHS spending, and dementia is one of the more expensive, complex and (for families) poorly-supported parts of it. Given the level of vitriol currently directed at anyone with Type II diabetes, which is now more or less indissolubly linked with fatness in the minds of most of the British public, I’m genuinely afraid for what it might mean for vulnerable people and their families if dementia got the same ‘fatty disease’ association. I pray the tide might turn on weight and health before that could happen, but…it’s still scary.

  15. As a citizen of the United States, I think that amendment is a slippery slope and before you know it, no one will have health care because we’ve all been excluded for any number of reasons. I truly believe that government run healthcare (meaning it’s basically free for everyone, but a possible tax is paid by the citizens) is a better idea even though it would mean another tax! Even as someone who is healthy and has pretty good healthcare, I still struggle to pay some of the bills that are associated with it. I have to worry about taking my daughter to the emergency room when one time insurance covers it almost completely and then next time they don’t cover any of it and I can’t for the life of me figure out why! I’m sure I’m not the only one that can’t afford to pay any amount of extra costs regarding my health, so I don’t do routinue maintenance because I can’t afford it even with insurance! I certainly hope that no CEO would deny his employers coverage just because he doesn’t agree with their lifestyle choices! What a strange country I live in recently!

  16. So the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious groups that have similar tenets could deny coverage for blood tranfusions and transplants? The Christian Science Church could deny all medical coverage, because their religious philosophy calls for healing through faith and prayer? The Anthrosophists could deny all medical coverage that wasn’t homeopathy, because that’s part of their religion?

    I regret that I have only one face to palm for my country.

  17. I regret that I have only one face to palm for my country.

    I hope you don’t mind if I steal this line!

    As to Ragen’s statement that soon insurance will only cover stomach amputatoins… My insurance does not cover any sort of obesity treatment INCLUDING weight loss surgery. When I spoke to our CEO about it the message was loud and clear that he excluded it from the contract because he believes obesity is a character flaw. Of course, he also believes that I don’t “need” benefits at work because my husband will provide them. This would be the disabled guy who has been hospitalized 3 times in the last 2 years who still can’t get SSDI benefits…

  18. The only insurance I’m able to get is high-risk coverage provided by my state. This covers all people who have been turned down for any reason. It’s not cheap, but it’s decent and if I didn’t have it, I would be paying tons of money. My job is contractual, which means no benefits and no holiday pay so I don’t have the option of getting coverage through the employer.

    As for trying to outlaw contraception, it’s ridiculous. A majority of Americans and Catholics support BC. The ones opposed don’t realize a lot of women are taking it for legit medical reasons, like myself, who has PCOS. All they see is “child-hating women are trying not to have babies.” I am literally cringing at these narrow-minded Bible thumpers who are trying to turn this country into a theocracy and wanting so much to control our reproductive choices. I desperately hope sanity will prevail and the lot of these crackpots will be ousted in November.

  19. No one is trying to outlaw contraception.

    The point is that if you believe abortion is murder, and many people of faith do, you should not be forced to pay for it. if you are forced to do this, then we are no longer a free people. This country was founded by people who didn’t want their state telling them how to practice their faith, yet that is exactly what this mandate does.

    The same government forces that you support can just as easily be turned on you as well. If you are forced to pay for an abortion, you can be forced to pay for gastric bypass surgery.

    I know I’ll get flamed for this and it is bad for my mental health to post this, but I can’t let it go. So I’ll just say it again. This isn’t about contraception. It’s about the government forcing the church to violate it’s beliefs. It’s no different from forcing Muslims or Jews to eat bacon because bacon is delicious.

    Ragen I really support you, especially with the billboards. Thanks for your voice.

    • Trudi,

      I appreciate your support, and we disagree on this issue. I think this is about the church taking tax dollars from the government but not wanting to abide by the government’s rules. My tax dollars fund these institution but they want to be able to make decisions as if they are a private religious institution. (Also, contraception is not abortion, so let’s make sure not to confuse the two.) Freedom is about choice, not exclusion. Gastric bypass surgery is different than contraception. Insurance already does cover stomach amputation and I’m not trying to limit other people’s access on moral grounds, but on actual health grounds. If I have a moral objection to stomach amputation, then I shouldn’t have stomach amputation, problem solved. There are issues of side effects, and efficacy that I think people should be informed about- actual HEALTH facts – which is very different than saying my religion thinks that this is morally wrong. I disagree with for-profit medicine, and I don’t think that insurance should go through employers, but while it does I think that people should be given choices based on health facts, not religious faith.

      The church is not questioning insurance coverage for single men who want viagara, even though anything that they do with their ensuing erection would be against church doctrine. They are providing coverage for people who get hurt working on the sabbath, and for people who contract STDs from extramarital affairs even though those things are against doctrine. Therefore I think that this is absolutely about contraception.

      Nobody is forcing anyone to take contraception, just like nobody is trying to make Muslims eat bacon. But we’re not telling stores that they have to stop selling bacon because it’s against Muslim beliefs. If the church is taking my money and the money of other taxpayers then they are not a religious institution that should get special exemption from regulations, while arguing that those same tax dollars shouldn’t support Planned Parenthood because they provide perfectly legal services with which the church objects.

      It’s fine for the church to have doctrines, but they should not try to force their employees to abide by them. If the church was able to convince its congregants that they shouldn’t take birth control, then it wouldn’t matter that they were offering it because nobody would take it and they wouldn’t have to pay for it. Instead, they want to take public funds from taxpayers and use those to enforce their doctrines on those who don’t believe in them.

      ~Ragen

  20. “First do no harm.”
    These schmucks don’t care about helping people. Truly they are only in it for the dollar. I don’t have anything particularly intelligent to say except that it’s enraging and scary.


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