In Senate Speech, Bennet Spotlights Stories of Colorado Infants Who Have Unfairly Been Denied Coverage Based on Their Weight
Highlights How Reform Will Bring an End to Such Practices, While Improving Quality and Lowering Cost for Coloradans
Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, highlighted the need to deliver on meaningful health care reform for Coloradans that lowers costs, improves quality and makes absurd and unfair industry practices like denials based on pre-existing conditions a thing of the past.
In his remarks, Bennet put a spotlight on the stories of two Colorado infants, Alex Lange of Grand Junction and Aislin Bates of Eerie, who were recently denied health coverage for not meeting their proposed insurer's height and weight standards.
Comparing Alex and Aislin's experiences to the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Bennet underscored the absurdity of a health care system that discriminates based on preexisting conditions, stating that it "looks like you have to be just right to get insurance, even if you're an infant."
FOR AUDIO OF BENNET'S REMARKS, PLEASE CLICK HERE.
The full text of Bennet's remarks, as delivered, are included below:
Mr. President, I am the father of three little girls that are 10, 8 and 5, and one of the things I miss most about being here and not being in Colorado is being able to read to them at night or with them. Over the years, we've moved from one thing to another -- Harry Potter is now being read. But I had a story from Colorado this morning that I couldn't believe; that reminded me so much of Goldie Locks and the Three Bears. And that's what I wanted to talk about today.
In Colorado, several weeks ago, we had a young boy named Alex Lange who was four months old and 17 pounds. He was denied insurance because of his "Preexisting condition," which in this case was obesity. Bernie and Kelly Lange, his parents, tried to get insurance when they were told by an insurance broker that their baby was "too fat to be covered."
As his father said, "I could understand if we could control what he's eating, but he's four months old - he's breastfeeding. We can't put him on the Atkins diet or on a treadmill." So that was one story of a child who was too fat to be covered.
Today, we have the story of Aislin Bates - by the way, in that case - and I want the record to reflect that the insurance company did the right thing, which was to say "we made a mistake and we need to cover this young man." Today comes the story of Aislin Bates, who is two years old, 22 pounds, and denied insurance because of her pre-existing condition, Mr. President, which is that she is underweight.
Rob and Rachel, her family, tried to get insurance when they received a letter saying we are unable to provide coverage for Aislin because her height and weight do not meet our company's standards. Her pediatrician wrote a letter in support of the family's request to appeal the insurance company's decision but the company stuck by its decision. The Bates family has said that it costs as much to cover Aislin under COBRA than it does to cover the remaining three family members.
So, in Colorado, we've got children that are too big and we've got children who are too little to be insured. And the reason this reminded me of Goldie Locks is that it looks like you have to be "just right" to get insurance, even if you're an infant.
We can do better than as a country, and we are proposing to do better than that as a country. One of the most important parts of this insurance reform, Mr. President, is to get rid of denials of coverage based on preexisting conditions. I've talked to many people that work for insurance companies who are tired of having to deny claims for this or for that or relying on the fine print when they know the right thing to do is to provide coverage; tired of living in a country where 62% of bankruptcies are health care related and 78% of those health care-related bankruptcies are happening to people that have insurance-working families that have insurance; tired of the fact that we have a public hospital in Denver that two or three years ago spent $180 million of taxpayer money on uncompensated care for people employed by small businesses.
So what we're talking about here at the end of the day is trying to create some stability for our working families; trying to create some stability and some fairness for our small businesses who, after all, are paying 18% more to cover their employees just because they're small.
Politics has gotten in the way of our reform of our health care system for more than 20 years-it's been longer than that. In the last ten years alone, the cost of health insurance premiums have gone up 97% in my state while median family income has declined by $800 over this same period. This is unsustainable for our working families. It's unsustainable for us as an economy, for us to spend more than twice, Mr. President, what any other industrialized country in the world is spending on health care. We can't hope to compete in this global economy when we're devoting more than twice what anyone else is spending on health care. We can do better than this.
The commonsense reforms that are in front of us, that I'm sure are going to be improved in the coming weeks, are a big step forward for working families and small businesses. It's going to be a big step forward for these young children in Denver, Colorado, and in the rest of our state who can't be denied coverage because they're not "just right", because they're too big or they're too small or there's one other issue that nobody anticipated. Our families need help. They need stability in order to get ahead, and that's why I support this health care reform effort.
And, I want to thank again the Senator from New Hampshire for her leadership this morning and throughout the months that we've been talking about this and look forward to working with her in the coming weeks as we bring this finally into its safe harbor.