Bennet: Coloradans' Stories of Insurance Coverage Denials Unbelievable, Reform Will End Unfair Insurance Company Practices

In Remarks, Bennet Tells Story of Colorado Man Denied Coverage Because His Wife Was Pregnant - Even Though She Had Her Own Insurance

Urges Colleagues To Deliver Health Care Reform That Provides Stability for Working Families


Urging health care reform that provides stability for working families, Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, today spotlighted the story of a Coloradan who was denied health insurance coverage because his wife was pregnant, even though she had her own insurance. Bennet said the story was an example of the absurd waste of time caused by the health insurance system and the current lack of stability for Colorado's working families.

Bennet said the stories of insurance company denials in Colorado demonstrated the "wasted evenings, conversations, and fights that people have over their telephone just to get basic insurance for their families so they can have the kind of stability all of us want to have for their kids, grandkids and their families. That's what this insurance reform is about."

Below is a transcript of the remarks as delivered:

My colleague, Senator Udall from Colorado, did a wonderful job talking about the models we have of transitional care in Colorado, where we see some providers able to have merely a 3 percent hospital readmission rate just because of the way they manage patients, patient-centered care, unlike the way we do it all across the country, which is the reason why we have a 20 percent hospital readmission rate in the United States. If we just put in some of these commonsense practices and worried about outcomes more and worried about how many tests were given less, in this case, we could reduce the expenditure by $18 billion annually and provide better quality care. And it's just one of the many ideas that are bubbling up from states all across the country.

I wanted to spend a couple minutes today talking about the absurd waste of time that is caused by our current system of insurance in the United States. And we've got two examples in Colorado that have recently been covered by the newspapers out there. The first is a story about gender discrimination when it comes to insurance. It's about a woman in my state, Peggy Robertson of Golden, Colorado, who was denied coverage because she had what was called a preexisting condition, which was the c-section that she had when she gave birth to her son. The insurance company said that they wouldn't cover her unless she became sterilized. Peggy came and testified about this in the committee here, and her story has been repeated by many people all across the state of Colorado.

But it got the attention of another person in our state named Matt Temme of Castle Rock, Colorado, who wrote a letter to the editor that I almost couldn't believe when I read it. We followed up with Matt, and it turned out that it was true. Matt was denied coverage because his wife, who is insured -- she has her own insurance -- was pregnant. Matt is a 40-year-old commercial pilot from Castle Rock, and he was furloughed from his job at the end of June. His wife, Wendy, is a paralegal and she has coverage through her employer. They have a six-year-old son. As I mentioned a minute ago, Wendy is pregnant. It was too expensive for Matt and his son to join his wife's plan as dependents because he had been furloughed. He went out shopping for a new plan on the individual market, which he thought would be easy.

First, he checked with his previous company's health insurance. He filled out the paperwork for himself and his son. He is healthy, is 40 years old, and he is not eligible for coverage because his wife just found out she was pregnant. He told the insurance companies, "My wife is already covered by another insurer," and they said to him, "That's true. But if she suffers a fatality while giving birth to her child, that child is going to become a dependent of yours and, therefore, will be on the insurance that you would buy and, therefore, we're not going to sell it to you." Now Matt had to go out to the market again, and what they have are three plans. They have the plan his wife was on, already covered. They have another plan for his six-year-old son. Now Matt is on a version of a public option that we have in Colorado called Cover Colorado.

And when I read this letter, when we heard this story, when we talked to Matt, it just reminded me again, Mr. President, of all the stories that I've heard, that all of us have heard, over these many months when we've been discussing health care, about all of the wasted evenings and conversations and fights that people have over their telephone just to get basic insurance for their family, so they can have the kind of stability all of us want to have for our kids, for our grandkids and for our families. That's what this insurance reform is about.

It's time for us to set aside the usual politics of special interests that always has prevented us from getting something done here and deliver reform that creates stability for working families all across our country, deliver reform that allows us to consume a smaller portion of our gross domestic product than we are today, deliver reform that allows us to begin to put this federal government back on a path of fiscal stability. It's high time to put those politics aside. I know in this country, we can do better than that. And in the end we will do better. Our working families and small businesses will be real beneficiaries of the reform that we pass here. So I thank the senator from North Carolina for giving me the opportunity to be here this morning, and I appreciate her very important leadership on this critical issue.

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.