Instead of just outright rejecting patients seeking insurance coverage, health plans are punishing those with existing, and serious, conditions by making them pay more for their drugs.
Those affected include people suffering from illnesses like Parkinson's disease, diabetes, migraine headaches, hypertension, hepatitis C and epilepsy, ProPublica and The New York Times found.
Internally, insurers are classifying both brand name and generic drugs as “non-preferred,” which results in all drugs for these patients costing more money through higher co-pays. This effectively drives patients away from a plan because it is too expensive, but the insurer gets away with legally claiming it does not discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions.
One health expert, Dr. A. Mark Fendrick, a physician and director of the University of Michigan Center for Value-Based Insurance Design, told ProPublica that if insurers are allowed to deny patients cheaper drug alternatives, some Americans will decide to stop taking their pills because they can’t afford them.
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