I read about Alex Lange the other day in an article in the Denver Post , his story has since seen coverage on almost all the major news outlets.
The Lange’s story is like so many others who struggle to find health insurance in the private, non-group market, they hit the brick wall of underwriting. The Langes had been searching for new health insurance for their family because their current insurer had raised their rates by 40%. They worked with an health insurance broker to find the right company and policy to meet their families needs. They submitted their application and awaited the result of the underwriting process with Rocky Mountain Health Plans. I’m sure they never expected the response they received. Their delightful, happy, healthy little 4 month old, Alex, was being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, obesity. That’s right, I said obesity. You see, Alex, is a big baby, weighing in at 17lbs. He is in the 99th percentile for both his weight and his height. His pediatrician had never mentioned this as a problem to the Langes. The Langes were stunned and angered by the outcome of their search for health insurance. Alex’s father, Bernie stated in his interview with the Denver Post “I could understand if we could control what he’s eating. But he’s 4 months old. He’s breast-feeding. We can’t put him on the Atkins diet or on a treadmill.”
After several days of media coverage regarding this story Rocky Mountain Health Plans has announced a change in how it handles “fat” babies. It will no longer consider “obesity” in infants as a pre-existing condition. Big surprise there. It is amazing what a little bad press can make a company do. The problem is that insurance companies had this approach in the first place.
I was outraged when I first read this story, completely furious. I’m happy that the outcome has changed and that Alex is no longer being denied health insurance simply because he is a heavy baby. But it is sad that the denial happened in the first place, that his family had to go to the media to get the results they deserved in the first place. This is just another piece of evidence that the health care/insurance system in the United States is in desperate need of reform.