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DC Insider: Health Insurance Discrimination – Are you covered?

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My dad always told me, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When you’re young, you don’t really get it. What is there to prevent? What could possibly happen to you? You’re invincible, right? It’s not your intention to tempt fate; it’s just a normal part of being young. We all have moments though, when we are abruptly woken from our youthful dreamland and reality hits us like a freight train.

As the first week’s theme of Freedom Friday --“Health-Insurance Discrimination”-- comes to a close, I was reminded of just such an incident that forever changed the life of a friend of mine. It was the weekend of July 4th in Salt Lake City several years ago. My friend and her new beau were on his motorcycle, enjoying their second date. As they were leaving the fireworks display they had just attended they were hit from behind on the freeway. The couple was thrown from his motorcycle. My friend hit the asphalt with such force that it actually shook her right out of her helmet and left her unconscious in the middle of the freeway. Somehow in the ensuing chaos, her brave beau, ran back into traffic and pulled her to safety. While this action prevented her from being hit by oncoming traffic, she was seriously injured. She was rushed to a local hospital and surgery was performed. Her life was spared.

As fate would have it, this young couple later married and recently welcomed their first child.

While this story has a happy ending, my friend faced a challenging recovery and expensive hospital bill. Being a single young woman, working as a waitress part-time, she didn’t have health insurance. The driver who hit them fled the scene. He was never apprehended.

As adults, we are cautious and take measures to prevent situations like this. But what if you thought you had done everything you could do to protect yourself and found out too late that you were wrong?  The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was meant to protect workers from being denied health-care coverage based on their participation in legal activities such as motorcycle riding. Unfortunately, the intent of Congress was reversed when rules were written to implement the law. As a result, health-insurance benefit discrimination against motorcyclists and others continues.

Do you know that you are covered if injured while riding, or do you just think you are?

Don’t find out too late. Make sure to read the “Exceptions” section of your health insurance plan’s benefits. This will tell you exactly what your plan won’t cover. It’s better to be certain before something happens than to find out as a result of an accident. The AMA has been fighting health-insurance discrimination for years and is now on Capitol Hill lobbying to change the law so that this form of discrimination no longer exists. In the meantime, being prepared and exercising some prevention will protect you from the panic that comes from trying to figure out the cure.

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