The Non-Existing Condition
Valerie Scaglione's story is almost comical:
Monthly premiums for Blue Cross coverage for them and their three daughters have soared over the years to almost $2,000, Scaglione says.
She estimates that in the past six years, the family has spent more than $140,000 on premiums and co-payments.
Yet when she tried to switch from the family's expensive individual insurance to a Blue Shield group plan that's more affordable, she said, she and her oldest daughter were denied coverage. She said neither of them has the medical conditions that were listed as reasons for being denied - bronchitis and a skin ailment.
"I have three children," said Scaglione, 47. "We have to have insurance. Stitches may be required. A broken bone may have to be set. We have no chronic diseases. We're a normal family. This is crazy."
Consumer advocates consider their story emblematic in many ways of complaints that plague the entire health insurance industry.
"We've seen people denied for things as minor as heartburn," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a statewide health advocacy coalition. "It gets to the point where living is a pre-existing condition.
Mrs. Scaglione's health insurance coverage costs three times as much as the family's MORTGAGE. And she can't get out of it and into a group plan, because Blue Shield flat-out invented reasons to deny the coverage. She has demanded to see the medical records that show her daughter having bronchitis and her having a skin condition called rosacea, but the health insurer refused the request.
As the debate continues, the Scagliones remain among California's 3 million consumers in the pricey individual insurance market.
"I wonder how many other families are like ours," Scaglione said. "What's the option, to be uninsured? This forces me to stay with our same plan. Premiums will go up and up and up. What, do we not feed the kids? It gets to the point of being absurd."
Blue Shield of California can be reached at (866) 256-7703. You might want to ask them what health care ailments they think you have of which you're unaware.