Friday, January 2, 2009

A life insurance amendment to GINA is necessary and citizens should be outraged that its not in the original legislation

Why were Life Insurance companies and their affiliates excluded from GINA?

Recently, my wife and I had our first child, Giselle (7'7oz and full of charm). For the first time in our lives, it seemed prudent to obtain a life insurance policy to protect our new family from any unfortunate, unforeseen or untimely events. So, we contacted a friend who works for one of the major US life insurance companies and she prepared a policy for each of us. We went into the process admittedly naive but open to the guantlet of activities that quickly ensued. The process was probably fairly standard but certain elements seemed somewhat peculiar and invasive to me.
First, each of us were asked to answer at least a hundred rapid-fire questions by phone about our family and medical history, personal financial records and employment history. This would have been fine, except for the fact that I don't have instant recall of the last five-plus years of medical visits, procedures, prescriptions, etc. So the data they got from me was not particularly accurate (and I consider myself fairly adept at answering healthcare questions). In fact, I had to stop the woman interviewing me several times to back-up and re-answer the questions she was working through.
For example, "In the past five years have you seen a physician for gastrointestinal issues?" I originally answered "no". About 3 minutes later, I remembered I was laying on the table at a local hospital about a year ago to have a gastric scope for a possible GERD condition (they didn't find anything). How could I forget that? Maybe it was the way the interviewer was pushing me through the questions, maybe it was because I was laying in bed answering the questions half-asleep, maybe it was because I have a certain apathy re: phone surveys. Any way you slice it - the information they were retrieving from me was partial and not as robust as it could have been. Further, I can't imagine how someone outside the healthcare industry would answer these questions with any degree of accuracy.
Second, a few days later, a mysterious man calling himself Mr. Reid showed up at our apartment in the city to administer our "medical evaluation". We thought he might ask some questions, put a blood pressure cuff on, execute a physical exam, ask me to "turn my head and cough", etc. We were shocked when he showed up with sampling kits asking for blood and urine samples. Blood and urine samples? Taken in our home? When we asked him what tests he would run on the samples he said, "Oh, I don't have a record of the tests that will be run, but it's routine screening and I just pick up the samples"...huh? Sounds like when you take your cell phone into the place you bought it from and they tell you they can't help you with service...

I wasn't born yesterday, what did he mean "routine screening"?
So, I probed further. Who CAN tell me what tests will be run, exactly? He said, "Well you'll have to contact your agent, she should be able to give you a list of the tests they typically perform."

I gave him the samples he requested (I know I shouldn't have but I didn't want the hassle of re-scheduling to delay the inevitable - we need insurance - and this is what you have to do to get it). A few hours later, I was on the phone with our insurance agent (actually my friend's mother). I asked her, "Can we get a list of the tests that you'll be running on our blood and urine samples?" and commented, "we weren't aware that this was part of the process." She said, "Certainly, I can get you the information. However, I don't have the list of all the tests that they'll run right now. But, its likely to be some of the same tests you're asked to take during a physical in your doctor's office. If you still need it, I'll get you the list after the holidays when our team is back in the office"...

Now... ... ... are you kidding me? What did that mean? I had already given my blood and urine samples to a guy who showed up, out of the blue, at our apartment asking for them, stuck a needle in my arm, and left with my body do "routine testing" that couldn't be readily identified by my friend's mom - our new life insurance agent.

This is a lot of information they've just acquired on my work history, financials, health, etc... What did i just agree to? Its now clear to me that they could run any genetic test they wanted to to confirm disease, assess pre-disposition to disease, etc and then just inform me that they did it? They could deny me coverage, hike my rates to any level, share the information with other Life Insurers or affiliates, etc.

What if this was life insurance through my employer (its not)? GINA doesn't and won't (in its current form) protect me against any discriminatory activity by a life insurer or companies it might share my information or do business with...

The question is, why is LIFE INSURANCE excluded from GINA legislation? Who are the beneficiaries of this policy choice? and when will we WAKE UP and DEMAND an amendment to include it in GINA? Am I missing something?