Insurance Companies: Get Sterilized and Then We'll Cover You

ABC's Tom Shine reports from Washington:

When Peggy Robertson went shopping for a more affordable health insurance plan for her self-employed husband and two young boys, she ran into an unexpected problem: the birth of her son Luke in 2006 by caesarean section. The healthy young mother was shocked when the Golden Rule Insurance company denied her coverage due to the C-Section birth of her son. "I called Golden Rule and they said that if I would get sterilized, they would then be able to offer insurance to me." When Amanda Buchanan's husband got a job teaching in a rural school at a salary of $33,000 a year, the family was faced with a tough decision when it came to health care. To cover the entire family under her husband's group insurance policy would cost $760 a month which would take a big bite out of their yearly income. So Amanda went shopping for an individual insurance policy to cover just her and her son. She found one for $280 a month but it came with one very big deductible: a maternity deduction of $5,000. When Amanda purchased the policy she was not planning to have another child. But several months later, "my husband and I found ourselves discussing the possibility of a second child. Instead of an intimate conversation between the two of us about goals and family, I felt like there were actually three of us at the table -- myself, my husband and our insurance policy...I was very angry that an insurance company could set up a policy in a way that would either discourage women from getting pregnant or if they did become pregnant, force them to pay for basically the entire cost of a typical pregnancy...My husband and I came up with a plan: I would have the baby, then take myself off of insurance and use the money I'd save to pay down our medical debt." Even though the hospital wrote off their bill, Buchanan says the medical expenses from the pregnancy and delivery "ate up 28 percent of our net income in 2008." We have heard the stories of the uninsured, and the underinsured. Today at a hearing chaired by Senator Barbara Mikulski, we will hear stories from and about women who have had trouble getting adequate coverage just because they are women. Mikulski in her opening statement says a 25 year old woman pays up to 45 percent more than a 25 year old man for health insurance and once she reaches the age of 40 it can be up to 140 percent more.

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