discriminates against them and their families. From marriage and
partner recogniction to legal parent status and children’s access
to health benefits, there are any number of obvious ways that
insurance excludes LGBTQ people and their kids.
But rather than just thinking about how the insurance industry
discriminates and excludes, I think it’s helpful to take it a step
further, to truly wrap our brains around what’s going on:
The benefits packages that insurance companies provide not only
discriminate and exclude, they define what specific illnesses,
procedures, treatments, and, yes, even families are worth
encouraging and supporting.
My package, for instance, includes funds for childbirth classes and
support and education programs for expectant mothers, but says
nothing of preparing parents who are adopting children, even
infants who will be in their care from the first moments of life.
The first thing to note here is that insurance companies often
apply the term “medically necessary” as a rationale for providing
benefits or not. In my reading, there’s nothing “medically
necessary” about parent education classes for anyone, really. If
parent education classes were “medically necessary,” why wouldn’t
my insurance also cover home care assistance for chronically ill
people, such as providing funds to hire someone to assistance in
daily tasks like dressing, cleaning and feeding oneself. My
insurance covers home care assistance for things like physical
therapy, administration of drugs and other at home “treatments,”
but not day-to-day personal care tasks, things that can vastly
improve one’s quality of life and can be excessively difficult to
do when debilitated by illness.
Elsewhere in my package there’s funding for gym memberships and
nutrition counseling–also, in the strictest sense, not “medically
necessary.” So what’s going on here? If insurance is willing to
subsidize preventive care and health maintenance, which would
include classes to educate new parents on how to best care for
their kids, why not apply that rationale equally?
Whether insurance companies intend this or not, their current
support of one type of parent (mothers who give birth) over others
privileges one type of family over others. Why should lesbian moms
or gay dads, for instance, not receieve benefits for parent
education classes when they pay their premiums, as well? For that
matter, why should any prospective parent who is not a pregnant
woman be excluded from these benefits? If the health and well-being
of the children is primary purpose behind a parent education
benefit, why not equally care for all children?
This is just one of the many questions we must ask the insurance
industry, which so greatly shapes our lives through our health.
Anyone reading this post who feels categorically discriminated
against or excluded from their insurance coverage should think not
only about how they’re excluded but who is included and why. What
groups and kinds of people are held up over others? Who receives
benefits, who has coverage? None of this is black and white and all
of it can change.
If you want to take action, assess your benefits package and see if
you and your family are inappropriately excluded. You may not be
able to get your provider to cover your partner without legal
marriage, but you may make waves around things like parent
education class benefits and other, less “political” subjects.