Another don’t ask, don’t tell policy?
February 26, 2008
The New York Times reported Sunday that a new DNA test that can tell you if you’re going to come down with a specific disease in the future, is generating fear among potential users. Once thought to be a boon to users who could plan medical treatments in advance of a disease, the impact of this information on health care premiums — or even insurance cancelation — is causing some people to avoid it altogether. Debate over the implications of accurate prediction of the future is ramping up.
“Suppose I knew that I was going to come down with a particular form of cancer as I age. I could alter my lifestyle and try to make it less severe, but my DNA is telling me that it’s hard coded into my system and I’m not going to escape it,” said Healthy Sweat, a gorgeous physical specimen of manhood destined by his DNA code to break within the next decade or so. “If my insurance company knows this and believes I’ll have a long-term expensive fight with the disease, it only makes sense that they cancel my policy within the next couple of years. They’d collect my premiums and get the near-term benefits while the odds favor good times, and then bail. I’ve been doing that with girlfriends for years, why wouldn’t a cold glass building representing my insurance provider do it to me?”
Ethicists who hate Healthy Sweat’s treatment of girlfriends also say it would be inappropriate for insurance companies to treat people so callously. “Insurance isn’t only about profit, it’s about providing money to care for a person who is ill,” said Hope Formore, an insurance activist whose baseless dream of a perfect national healthcare system takes up most of her mornings. “It can’t only boil down to an actuarial table alone can it? I mean, if it’s all just a crap shoot, then insurance ends up being a huge financial loss for almost everyone who pays premiums. Like a Vegas casino, only the house really wins.”
Victoria Grove wanted to find out if she was destined to develop the form of emphysema that ran in her family, but she did not want to ask her doctor for the DNA test that would tell her, the New York Times reported. She worried that she might not be able to get health insurance, or even a job, if a genetic predisposition showed up in her medical records, especially since treatment for the condition, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, could cost over $100,000 a year. Instead, Ms. Grove sought out a service that sent a test kit to her home and returned the results directly to her. Nor did she tell her doctor when the test revealed that she was virtually certain to get it. Will her insurance company, hung with a future bill, position a defense by asking when she knew she was at risk, and whom did she tell? Can they get around paying for her treatment?
“We’re in the insurance business to provide a service as long as it’s profitable to us and our shareholders,” said Huge Executive, a compassionate health insurance provider busily pushing a heart bypass patient out of the hospital because he had healed for long enough. “We are eager to know the DNA data on our policy holders so we can rejigger the risks to our company by hiking the appropriate premium rates, or canceling the greatest risks. Of course those healthy folks who have DNA that says they’ll avoid all major diseases won’t have their premiums increased much. Just enough to cover the testing and the increasing odds that they’ll eat beef from a U.S. food recall, or chew a lead-based Chinese toy.”
In other news, consumer advocate Ralph Nader has announced that he’s running for President of the United States again. Nader keeps running for the office despite getting a smaller and smaller share of voters each time he does. Political pundits say he’ll probably get even fewer votes this election than he has in previous ones. No one can figure out why he keeps doing it, but insurance executives suspect it’s something in his DNA.
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