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4 month old baby denied insurance for being "too fat"

Posted by on Oct. 12, 2009 at 11:27 AM
  • 87 Replies

GRAND JUNCTION — Alex Lange is a chubby, dimpled, healthy and happy 4-month-old.

But in the cold, calculating numbered charts of insurance companies, he is fat. That's why he is being turned down for health insurance. And that's why he is a weighty symbol of a problem in the health care reform debate.

Insurance companies can turn down people with pre-existing conditions who aren't covered in a group health care plan.

Alex's pre-existing condition — "obesity" — makes him a financial risk. Health insurance reform measures are trying to do away with such denials that come from a process called "underwriting."

"If health care reform occurs, underwriting will go away. We do it because everybody else in the industry does it," said Dr. Doug Speedie, medical director at Rocky Mountain Health Plans, the company that turned down Alex.

By the numbers, Alex is in the 99th percentile for height and weight for babies his age. Insurers don't take babies above the 95th percentile, no matter how healthy they are otherwise.

"I could understand if we could control what he's eating. But he's 4 months old. He's breast-feeding. We can't put him on the Atkins diet or on a treadmill," joked his frustrated father, Bernie Lange, a part-time news anchor at KKCO-TV in Grand Junction. "There is just something absurd about denying an infant."

Bernie and Kelli Lange tried to get insurance for their growing family with Rocky Mountain Health Plans when their current insurer raised their rates 40 percent after Alex was born. They filled out the paperwork and awaited approval, figuring their family is young and healthy. But the broker who was helping them find new insurance called Thursday with news that shocked them.

" 'Your baby is too fat,' she told me," Bernie said.

Up until then, the Langes had been happy with Alex's healthy appetite and prodigious weight gain. His pediatrician had never mentioned any weight concerns about the baby they call their "happy little chunky monkey."

His 2-year-old brother, Vincent, had been a colicky baby who had trouble putting on pounds.

At birth, Alex weighed a normal 8 1/4 pounds. On a diet of strictly breast milk, his weight has more than doubled. He weighs about 17 pounds and is about 25 inches long.

"I'm not going to withhold food to get him down below that number of 95," Kelli Lange said. "I'm not going to have him screaming because he's hungry."

Speedie said not many people seeking individual health insurance are turned down because of weight. But it does happen. Some babies less hefty than Alex have had to get health endorsements from their pediatricians. Adults who have a body-mass index of 30 and above are turned down because they are considered obese.

The Langes, both slender, don't know where Alex's propensity for pounds came from. Their other child is thin. No one in their families has a weight problem.

The Langes are counting on the fact that Alex will start shedding pounds when he starts crawling. He is already a kinetic bundle of arm- and leg-waving energy in a baby suit sized for a 9-month-old.

They joked that when he is ready for solid food, they will start him on Slim-Fast.

Meanwhile, they made Alex's plight public on KKCO this week. They plan to appeal Rocky Mountain's denial.

If that doesn't work, they plan to take their case to the Colorado Division of Insurance.

"My gripe is not with Rocky Mountain," Bernie said. "It's with the general state of the health care system."

This article made me want to puke.  I can't believe that we, as a society, are allowing insurance companies to get away with this!  This is exactly why we need health care reform!!!!

by on Oct. 12, 2009 at 11:27 AM
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Replies (1-10):
by on Oct. 12, 2009 at 11:35 AM

Wow, that is absolutely ridiculous!  I hate those charts, and mostly because after about 6m my son was always on the bottom of them.  Let me tell you, my kid can eat! 

CafeMom Tickers
by on Oct. 12, 2009 at 12:00 PM

absolutely ridiculous.  

by on Oct. 12, 2009 at 12:01 PM

What is this world coming to? This is just absolutely crazy. My son will be 4 months soon, and I can't even imagine having him be obese as an issue. He's a baby! You just can't tell them not to eat.

by Member on Oct. 12, 2009 at 12:02 PM
That is absurd!! To deny a child because he is healthy. I would appeal it too and raise all kinds of hell...
by Bronze Member on Oct. 12, 2009 at 1:55 PM

Quoting jcsmummy:

absolutely ridiculous.  

by Silver Member on Oct. 12, 2009 at 2:14 PM

Wow. Well, it's not too surprising in this society. Might as well give the kid a head start on the image problems, he'll have them in a couple years anyway, just like everyone else. I really don't know how those people sleep at night.

Mrs. Khan

by on Oct. 12, 2009 at 2:48 PM

this is stupid. both of my kids were the same size at that age. Some babies are just cubbier then others. How can insurance companys expect you to control your babies weight at that age?

Lilypie 3rd Birthday Ticker

Lilypie 2nd Birthday Ticker
by on Oct. 12, 2009 at 3:29 PM

Quoting jcsmummy:

absolutely ridiculous.  

Lilypie Pregnancy tickers
by Bronze Member on Oct. 12, 2009 at 4:08 PM

Wow!  I guess I was just lucky then that none of children were turned down!  My kids all hit 20 lbs by three months old and were between 6 and 8 lbs at birth!  Also, what gets me about this is the way the determine things, its always made me mad, they always said mine were in the 100% height and weight bracket!  I have always said that the way they do those brackets were discrimination and do not take into account that you also have people that are genetically larger people then others and if they compare the children only to others of equivalent genetic size they might find a big difference in the charts. 

by Silver Member on Oct. 12, 2009 at 4:17 PM

Jeez.  My sixteen month old daughter is at the bottom of the chart (and always has been, btw- she's just a shrimp).  If we try to get private insurance, will she be denied on the basis of anorexia?

Lilypie 1st Birthday Ticker

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