Job, medicine could ax health coverage

January 8, 2007

Health insurers in California can refuse to cover individuals because of their jobs or because they take certain medicines, documents showed.

Total groups of workers -- roofers, pro athletes, migrant farmers and firefighters among them -- are denied insurance, even if they're in good health and can afford it, The Los Angles Times said Monday. According to actuary tables, certain workers are too big a risk to underwrite.

Blue Cross of California, the state's top seller of individual policies, does not exclude applicants based on occupation, but three others do: Blue Shield of California, PacifiCare Health Systems Inc. and Health Net Inc.

But all four health plans examine prescription drug use when deciding individual policies, documents showed. Dozens of widely prescribed medications for heart burn and asthma, for example, may lead to rejection, according to underwriting guidelines, the Times said.

Health plans said the restrictions, legal in California, are necessary to keep premiums down.

As state lawmakers and the governor consider extending coverage to many of the state's uninsured, consumer advocates said such policies are too restrictive.

"This isn't cherry picking; this is ignoring whole orchards of people," Jamie Court, Foundation for Consumer and Taxpayer Rights president, told the Times.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International

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