By Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, AJN interim editor-in-chief

It’s interesting to have a firsthand encounter pertinent to the HCR story that is consuming the headlines. Recently, my son had a fall and dislocated his shoulder. He knew what had happened because he did it as a freshman in high school, some 10 years ago while playing sports. So he went to an ER and had the shoulder popped back in, saw an orthopedist as recommended, and went for physical therapy—all covered by his insurance plan. But all his claims for reimbursement were denied. The reason the company gave: his dislocated shoulder was considered a ‘preexisting condition.’

After my husband peeled me off the ceiling, we approached this methodically—we gathered forms, wrote letters, requested letters from the hospital, the orthopedist, the physical therapists—and appealed the ruling. After a bit, we received a response saying that they’d reconsidered and would cover the injury according to policy.

This is not a terribly compelling or poignant case, but it’s an example of the “first deny all claims” approach of some companies. Yes, it was resolved on appeal fairly easily, but why did it need appealing in the first place? I can’t imagine what patients and families with chronic illness must go through in trying to get treatment covered.

If the only thing health reform does is to eliminate the unjust use of preexisting conditions to deny coverage, it will get rid of one of the most critical obstacles to access to care.

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