Monday, April 26, 2010

Notes on Politics: Sebelius Stands Up for Cancer Patients and a Supreme Court Mom

Sebelius Stands Up for Breast Cancer Patients

It was with supreme outrage that I read a Reuters report last week claiming that a health insurance company was targeting women who were freshly diagnosed with breast cancer for audits of their insurance policies in order to find a reason to cancel said policies.

Reuters highlighted two women who’d faithfully paid their insurance premiums, but soon after they were diagnosed with breast cancer were flagged for audits had their policies canceled. “They had no idea that WellPoint was using a computer algorithm that automatically targeted them and every other policyholder recently diagnosed with breast cancer,” Reuters reported. “The software triggered an immediate fraud investigation, as the company searched for some pretext to drop their policies, according to government regulators and investigators.”

Reuters continued, “Once the women were singled out, they say, the insurer then canceled their policies based on either erroneous or flimsy information. WellPoint declined to comment on the women's specific cases without a signed waiver from them, citing privacy laws.”

In response, an irritated Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius not only said that this practice – called “rescission” – will soon be illegal “thanks to the recently-passed Affordable Care Act,” but rapped the company, WellPoint, on the knuckles. Hard.

“WellPoint should not wait to end the unconscionable practice of deliberately working to deny health insurance coverage to women diagnosed with breast cancer,” wrote Sebelius. “I urge you to immediately cease these practices and abandon your efforts to rescind health insurance coverage from patients who need it most.”

A Supreme Court Mom?

Peter Beinart, writing on The Daily Beast, makes a case for President Obama to appoint a woman with young children to the Supreme Court. Pointing to the paucity of women with children in high profile positions in government and politics, Beinart wrote that in addition to having a woman justice who’s “more sensitive to the problems women face,” adding a mother to the court is important:

“. . . [B]ecause otherwise, the message you’re sending young women is that they can achieve professionally, or they can have a family, but they can’t do both. And without quite realizing it, that is the message our government has been sending. According to the Census Bureau, 80 percent of American women over the age of 40 have children. But look at the women who have held Cabinet posts in the last three presidential administrations. Only two of the Clinton administration’s five female Cabinet secretaries had kids.”

He also contrasted this issue to the fact that, “Men with children don’t have a role-model problem. After all, every one of the male Supremes has kids. (Antonin Scalia alone has nine.)”

Beinart continued:

“Soon after John Roberts was confirmed as chief justice, USA Today ran a syrupy feature entitled ‘Roberts Plays Dual Roles: Chief Justice and Father’ filled with sentences like ‘He takes the children to swimming lessons. He tries to keep 5-year-old Jack from using 6-year-old Josie’s violin as a pretend weapon. At the end of the day, he helps put them to bed.’ Message to little Johnnies everywhere: You can have a great job and a great life all at the same time. Compare that to Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell’s comment after Barack Obama nominated Janet Napolitano to head the Homeland Security Department. ‘Janet’s perfect for that job,’ Rendell quipped. ‘Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19 to 20 hours a day to it.’ Message to little Janets: Go ahead, shoot for the stars. Just be prepared for a life devoid of anything but work.”

Image credit: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services via More Magazine.

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