Sunday, February 28, 2010

Buying Insurance in Fantasyland -- Doug Patton

March 1, 2010

“We agree philosophically that we want to end the prohibition on preexisting conditions.”
- President Barack Obama
White House Health Care Summit
February 25, 2010

Which of the following scenarios seems the most ludicrous?

Scenario #1: A young man is renting an apartment. He has a 60-inch flat panel television on the wall, a surround-sound home theater system with state-of-the-art speakers, a new Macintosh computer with a 21-inch monitor, brand new furniture and some nice jewelry. Altogether, everything is valued at approximately $25,000. One day, he comes home and discovers that someone has broken into his apartment and stolen everything. He still has his laptop, so after calling the police, he goes online to find an insurance company. He fills out a form for renter’s insurance, gets approved, and then logs back on to file his claim, knowing that the company cannot discriminate against him for a preexisting condition.

Scenario #2: A middle-aged woman is driving to work one morning. She comes up too fast, hits her brakes at the last second and slams into the car stopped in front of her at a red light. The other driver gets out to inspect the damage to the back end of his automobile. The woman assures him it is not a problem. She picks up her cell phone and calls a number she has programmed into her speed-dial for just such occasions. She tells the car insurance agent on the other end of the line to go ahead and sign her up for the full coverage. Then, knowing that the company cannot discriminate against her for a preexisting condition, she tells him she wants to report an accident involving property damage and possible whiplash.

Scenario #3: An older couple awakens in the middle of the night to the piercing sound of their home fire alarm system. They make their way through their smoke-filled living room, out their front door and into the frigid night air. They go to a neighbor’s house and use the phone to call 911. However, by the time the local volunteer fire department has arrived, their home is completely engulfed in flames. Shaken, the couple wonders what they will do. The neighbor gives them the name of his insurance agent and tells them to call him in the morning and insure the house. “After all,” he says, “they can’t discriminate against you just because of a preexisting condition.”

Scenario #4: A woman awakens in the morning to find her husband of twenty years cold and not breathing. She screams and calls 911 for an ambulance, but the man is dead from a massive heart attack. Grief-stricken, she laments that she doesn’t know how she and her children will make it financially. That is when her teenage son advises her to simply find a good life insurance agent and take out a million-dollar policy on her husband’s life. “You know, Mom,” he tells her, “it’s illegal for that company to discriminate against you for a preexisting condition.”

Scenario #5: A 47-year old father of five has been a smoker since he was a teenager. During a routine checkup, his doctor discovers a tumor on his lung. He goes to his boss and says, “You know that health insurance policy the company offers? Well, I need some surgery and possibly some chemo, so I’d like to sign up for it now.”

Bottom line: I pity you if your belongings are stolen. I regret that you had an accident on the way to work this morning. I sympathize that your house burned down. You have my condolences that your husband died in his sleep. And I feel sorry for you if you are seriously ill. Like most Americans — the most generous people on the planet — I will probably even volunteer to help you if I can.

There are ways for a compassionate society to deal with such problems, but the truth is that neither your misfortune nor your preexisting condition gives you claim to my life, liberty or property.
© 2010 by Doug Patton
Doug Patton is a former speechwriter and public policy advisor who now works as a freelance writer. His weekly columns appear in newspapers across the country and on various Internet websites, including Human Events Online and, where he is a senior writer and state editor. Readers can e-mail him at


Uncle Wiggily said...


Good luck trying to get a rational explanation of this OBVIOUS logical defect in the whole health care discussion. I have been trying for months to get someone, anyone, to tell me how this could possibly work - so far, no takers.

What is even more disturbing is an awful lot of supposedly rational Republican policy-makers have apparently signed on to the "no denial for pre-existing condition" canard.

We are governed by morons, idiots, and ideologues. We are, as a friend of mine on another blog likes to say, DOOMED.

dwolf50 said...

I have a question for you. What happens if the same guy from scenario #5 had health insurance for the past 5 years. He goes to his boss and asks if his health insurance covers the surgery and chemo. His boss says yes it does. He goes to get the surgery, pays his deductible and co-pay. Three months later, he is told that he needs to get chemo, but the company has decided to go with a different insurance carrier. The new policy does not cover chemo for preexisting conditions, and since this existed before the swap, he has to pay for it himself.

Can the insurance company actually do this, and if so, how is it the employee's fault since he had no choice in the matter of switching companies?