BP Diagnosis & Insurance Companies
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Q:  BP Diagnosis & Insurance Companies

hi. i have been diagnosed w/bipolar disorder in the past, but have also been told i was cyclothymic (spelling?) and even just depressed w/very mild mania brought on by some of the 30+ meds i was prescribed over the years (7 yrs.) i have just been denied insurance because of bipolarism.  this seems incredibly unfair considering the fact that different doctors had differing opinions - none were willing to openly challenge the other. at the time, the consensus was to treat the symptoms, etc (98% depression, but never ever suicidal-ish, and not worry about "labeling" me. having said ALL that, what recourse might there be to determine once & for all IF I AM BIPOLAR, and can this information EVER trump what is already in my medical history & available to insurance companies?

thank you for your time.

Dear Amy -- 
Not at all fair, surely; painfully ironic, in fact.  The problem from my distant viewing point is more with the denial due to bipolar disorder rather than what diagnosis to use.  If this is life insurance we're talking about, then unfortunately it's kind of their business to decide whom they want to insure and whom not.  You're right, the risk from your version of some bipolar-like thing that isn't very severe, is much lower than the risk for someone with symptoms that would clearly call for an unequivocal bipolar diagnosis.  But life insurance companies aren't particularly interested, from what I've seen, in such distinctions (time is money, etc etc). 

But if this is health insurance we're talking about, then the injustice is even more obvious, and in this case I'd think perhaps "fightable".  Pre-existing illness clauses should not be able to discriminate between types of illness, i.e. it shouldn't be okay to cover depression if was pre-existing, but not bipolar disorder.  Any pre-existing condition should either be covered, or not, if there is specific language in the contract for such exclusions (e.g I just checked insurance.com from Fidelity., which has such an exclusion).  Seems to me -- not a lawyer, mind you -- that if you've been excluded on the basis of we-cover-this-preexisting-but-not-that that you might have a case worth pursuing.  Good luck with that. 

Dr. Phelps


Published March, 2003


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