Yeah that means “overbite.”
The Chicago Tribuneâ€™s Bruce Japsen reports that 17-year-old Nora Kenny got her health insurance back, thanks to Illinois regulators. Her coverage had been rescinded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, which “said in letters in late 2008 to the parents and their orthodontist that they uncovered a 2001 diagnosis of mandibular hypoplasia.” Kenny’s father is a self-employed lawyer. So her family purchases insurance in the wild-west market for individual and small-group coverage.
“It really put us in a vulnerable position,” Nora Kenny’s mother, Kathy, said of the Blue Cross rescission. “You felt since we’re small potatoes, they can peel you off one by one. We had no leverage of paying millions of dollars in premiums like a General Electric.”
Itâ€™s not clear whether the Kenny family should have revealed Nora’s, er, congenital condition. Two things are clear, though.
First, families such as Nora’s will now face less worry. So will families with worse conditions to worry about than one which may support an orthodontist’s Caribbean vacation. The Kenny family got relief through a somewhat ambiguous state law, now interpreted under the shadow of national health reform. Beginning September 23, the Affordable Care Act bars every insurer in America from discriminating in child coverage on the basis of preexisting conditions. It also bars the accompanying rescissions (with specific exceptions for consumer wrongdoing).
Second, Nora Kenny’s comments are exactly right. That same Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois did a great job when my wife required a prolonged hospital stay. Unlike the Kenny family, mine is covered through a large employer. This provides our insurer (and thus us, too) with a stable, relatively healthy risk pool that reduces pressures for underwriting. It provides administrative efficiencies which lower costs. Not least, my family is represented by a university benefits department so that we do not have to deal as individual patients and consumers with health providers and behemoth insurance companies.
Health reform is complicated. ACA’s key pieces–including the individual mandate and insurance exchangesâ€”are designed to give people like Nora Kenny the same protections my own orthodontic-festooned daughters enjoy.
We’ll have many bumps in the road to health reform, particularly before 2014 when ACA’s main pillars become operational. It’s important to note that lives are already being changed for the better, one family at a time. That’s something to celebrate in a tough time.