Meet Alex Lange and his mother, Kelli. Alex is, as you can see, a nice healthy baby. His pediatrician thinks so, too. But guess who doesn’t…
In other words: He’s a nice healthy baby, who just happens to be on the big side of what’s normal for a 4-month-old. But by the insurer’s definition, that makes him “obese”.If you think that‘s ridiculous, wait’ll you see what the insurer wants his parents to do about it before they extend coverage:
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.
Yes, really. They want the parents to withhold food. And this at a time when babies are supposed to be fed on demand, because in that first crucial year of life, they do a LOT of growing!But here’s the part that really got to me:
“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.”
Alex weighed slightly less than I did (which was 8 lb. 9 oz.) when born. I was a skinny kid and a slender teenager, which just goes to show you that baby fat doesn’t stick around once you’re out of diapers. And no, I was not terribly physically active, either! Alex’s weight gain is not due to junk food or a couch-potato lifestyle, it’s due solely to his mom’s own milk. She is, as you can see, not a fat lady. And he certainly doesn’t look dangerously obese to me–I expect all healthy, well-nourished babies that age to have chubby little cheeks and rounded arms and legs. It’s ridiculous to generalize about health based on weight anyway, but in a baby it’s just beyond the beyonds. And it makes me wonder if part of the so-called “obesity epidemic” isn’t, in fact, a concerted effort on the part of insurers to deny coverage capriciously and fatten up their wallets instead.
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.”