I’m looking at you, insurance companies and banks who won’t approve people who have a history of chronic illness or who were born with one — such as my husband, who has hemophilia.
Of course, I am looking at this from a different perspective than the one businesses take. Then again, I also hold firm to the belief that plurality in opinion is an essential element of discourse and a driver of progress.
As a businesswoman myself, I am quite aware that these companies have reasons of their own for denying individuals who don’t meet their pre-defined criteria — essentially, people who don’t fall within a certain norm in terms of health or lifestyle. Statistically speaking, these are huge factors in assessing one’s mortality. Insurance companies are only willing to take on a limited amount of risk that still allows them to make money. Taking a chance on a client with a high risk of mortality qualifies as a huge risk for them. If something does happen to the client, the company is liable to pay, even if the client’s deposits were cut short. It all sounds reasonable — from the perspective of a business.
Shedding my businesswoman skin, however, and speaking as the wife of a person with hemophilia — I cannot help but feel that this dominant policy is unfair to chronically ill individuals. It screams equality with no equity. This excellent illustration explains the difference.
The premise is that you only qualify for insurance if you are “healthy” — that is, if you manage to hit the indicators that signal you are in good health. It pays to be in good shape and to be a nonsmoker, for instance. In addition, the company will make you undergo a comprehensive physical exam to ensure that all of your vitals fall within normal ranges.
A person with hemophilia is very much likely to raise a red flag for the company with a procedure as simple as a blood test. If that person opts for full disclosure from the very beginning to avoid legal impediments if something were to happen (knock on wood), they’re likely to be denied anyway, even if they were in an otherwise good condition. Perhaps even if they were a health enthusiast or an elite athlete, a person who will probably be alive for a long time if they manage their illness well. The fact that they have a blood disorder remains, like a stain on their entire being.
Since insurance is often considered an essential factor in becoming financially stable in our modern economy, we can argue that people with disability are systemically denied the opportunity to be economically healthy and to become fully independent individuals.
With these kinds of policies still dominating the insurance industry, can you imagine how many chronically ill adults are forced to depend on their partners’ (or, heaven forbid, their aging parents’) finances, despite being fully capable of supporting themselves and their families?
How many chronically ill individuals will end up feeling discouraged from starting families altogether because they think they are not financially capable of doing so? Certainly, not everyone makes decisions based solely on financial capacity — we may argue that some make choices based on spirituality or emotion (above or beyond reason). Yet, we still cannot deny that in our present world, finances do have a significant influence on many of our major life decisions. In addition, chronically ill individuals need the money.
It can be said that in many aspects of a chronically ill person’s life — such as healthcare — one’s well-being is essentially determined by financial capacity. (This is especially true in the Philippines, where health and wellness are commodities, the public hospital system has a lot of room for improvement, and innovation is mostly contained within expensive private facilities.)
Don’t get me wrong; I am not entirely against companies wanting to make money — or existing in the first place. I’m opposed to the tendency of big business to dehumanize people and treat them as mere statistics. There must be an alternative to this practice. Perhaps considering individual health status, along with the generic factors upon which we currently base people’s physical well-being, would be a more equitable approach. Then again, this would also require extensive re-evaluation of what we consider determinants of health — not just on a specific, individual level, but also in a more general sense.
I simply contend that it would not hurt to be just a little bit more inclusive of people with chronic illnesses and disabilities who are, after all, capable of being productive members of society. Open them up to the benefits that “normal” people are easily able to attain, to enjoy a decent quality of life. That’s what we want for everyone after all. It’s a basic human right. And I urge not just governments, but also businesses to do so. Businesses aren’t just soulless, money-making machines after all. They’re made of people. And they owe it to everyone who got them to where they are to serve their fellow people.
Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.