(Originally posted a month ago at three rivers fog; in the meantime, news also came out that things like acne were considered pre-existing conditions as well: consider any and all further outrage well and fully included in the subject of this post.)
You’ve undoubtedly heard the news already. A history of domestic violence or C-section are considered, by private US health insurance companies, to be “pre-existing conditions,” which are used as a basis for denying coverage, rescinding coverage, charging higher rates, or other discriminatory practices.
Of course, this is outrageous. Why should a woman who has been beaten by some asshole be denied health care coverage? It isn’t fair.
But there’s something wrong here. And not just with this discriminatory practice — but with the people breathlessly reporting it.
Because, you see, it is being reported, not as:
Pre-Existing Condition Exclusions Are Morally Wrong, but as
How Dare They Treat DV Victims and Mothers the Same Way They Treat Women with Depression, Diabetes and Cancer!
It is being reported as different from “normal” pre-existing condition exclusions. It is being reported as being especially wrong. As being worse. A true moral violation, taking things to a new level.
Here’s the thing. Insurance companies refuse coverage to people with pre-existing conditions (anything from asthma to leukemia) because they know these people will be highly likely to incur greater costs than healthy patients. The entire rationale for excluding them is because they cost more money.
If you have had a C-section once, you are much more likely to end up having another one if you ever give birth again. If you have a history of domestic violence, you might end up with an abusive partner again, and end up needing care.
Yeah, it’s complete bullshit that these people would be refused health care. It’s downright immoral.
But why is it especially immoral to refuse health care to these women — but not to women with osteoporosis or an anxiety disorder or back pain? Or Ehler-Danlos Syndrome or food allergies or heart disease or lung cancer?
How is it any different?
Victims of domestic violence don’t deserve to suffer consequences for something that is not their fault. This is truth. It contributes to the very popular cultural myth that victims are somehow to blame for the abuse they suffer — that they must have done something to provoke it, or that they should have left, etc. All this stuff is highly damaging.
But that doesn’t make it different than telling a woman with lung cancer that she can’t have care because her disease is somehow her fault. Which contributes to the very popular cultural myth that people with medical conditions are somehow to blame for them — that they must have done something to earn them, that it’s their own fault they ended up that way, and therefore they lose rights to certain things because they are inflicting the costs of their mistakes on the rest of us.
Because if you haven’t done anything wrong, you won’t ever end up sick. If you do end up sick, there must be something you did wrong.
Maybe that woman smoked. And maybe that other woman slapped her boyfriend first. And that woman who was raped wore a short skirt and flirted with the man first. That does not make this violation her fault. This is basic feminist theory. “Blaming the victim.”
Health care is a human right. We all deserve basic health care that respects a person’s dignity and integrity and humanity.
So why are these things different? Especially outrageous?
I can’t identify any reason except one.
Because they apply to healthy women.
It’s understandable why health insurance companies would refuse care to women with arthritis. It makes sense that they would deny care to women with psychiatric disorders.
Because we, as a society, think it is OK to deny quality of life and societal access to people with medical conditions, disabilities and chronic illnesses. We have determined that it makes sense to discriminate against them. We get why these things are done. And they’re done to those people. Over there. Not to me and mine.
But C-sections? Why, one-third of mothers in the US will have a C-section instead of a vaginal birth! That affects me and mine. Therefore, it is especially outrageous — that we would be treated like we treat them.
Oh, but that’s not how you think?
What justification is there for acting as though these practices are any worse than the practice of denying coverage to women who have lupus?
There isn’t any that isn’t rooted in a deeply ableist bias.
How about we get outraged by the fact that there is any such thing as a pre-existing condition exclusion at all? I can get behind you on that one.