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Consumer Watchdog to Congress: Put Patients' Bill of Rights Back on the Table
Date:6/4/2009

quired treatments. (See point 8 below).
  • Delays of medical care. HMOs consistently delay care, tangling a request in bureaucracy, as another way of denying care -- making patients wait so long that the requested treatment is no longer viable. Despite state independent medical review laws that can theoretically remedy denials, the lack of financial consequences for delay in most circumstances encourages this practice to continue. (See point 8 below).
  • Junk insurance. Far too often, patients find that their health insurance policies are not worth the paper they are printed on. Junk insurance policies that are often sold to individuals do not adequately cap out-of-pocket costs (copays and deductibles) and some even put dollar caps on certain treatments. Also increasingly common are very high deductible polices, which require patients to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket before coverage kicks in. All of these are really insurance for health insurers because companies know that cash-strapped Americans will not be able to afford to go to the doctor even if they can pay the monthly premium. For example, Dana Christensen of California and her husband Doug bought a policy that promised unlimited chemotherapy coverage. Only after Doug got cancer did the Christensen's discover that their insurance policy limited chemotherapy coverage to $1,000 per day. Chemotherapy commonly costs $17,000 or more a day. Dana was left with $450,000 in unpaid medical bills when Doug died.
  • Manipulating "risk." Not only do health insurance companies and HMOs use their internal rules for assessing risk -- called "medical underwriting" guidelines -- to refuse coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, even minor health issues like allergies, acne, and asthma, but also to charge higher rates to applicants with those conditions. Though the plan envisioned by the House and Senate would bar insurers from refusing to sell cove
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