I know that anecdotes do not have anything to do with scientific data. But some of them sure are tough to ignore. This article from Self Magazine includes the stories of several women who have found themselves between a rock and a hard place with their health insurance – or lack of it. A policy rescinded after a $15,000 surgery because an applicant forgot to mention that she had irregular periods in the past. A family with a little girl born with severe disabilities and unable to qualify for individual health insurance. A mother declined for coverage because she took fertility drugs in order to conceive her two children. A woman who battled cancer and lived to tell about it, but then found herself unable to get health insurance when she switched to a job that didn’t offer group health insurance.
It’s good to see articles like this in the mainstream media (even though this one perpetuates the myth that individual health insurance is more expensive than group health insurance!). Health insurance doesn’t tend to be something most people know much about – unless they work in the industry or have had to file a large claim with their health insurance carrier. Most people are getting their information about health insurance from the internet, from the news media, from their family and friends, and from health insurance companies and agents (hopefully good ones, who advise clients to include every last detail on their health insurance applications). And a lot of that information comes in the form of anecdotes. Those are the images we remember. When you read the story in Self Magazine, you’re left with the image of the family whose little girl had to go without therapy because they didn’t have health insurance coverage – not the details about the history of health insurance. So while anecdotes don’t have much bearing on science and data, they sure do sway people. And with health care on the political agenda at the moment, anecdotes are a powerful tool for people who are trying to make changes in our health care system.
It’s easy to brush aside the examples in the article as “just anecdotes.” But each of those anecdotes is a person. Real people and families who have had to cope with the uncertainty of life without health insurance, despite their efforts to obtain coverage. And they are not isolated incidents. We talk to clients in Colorado on a regular basis who have very little in the way of options for health insurance. Should we simply tell these people that life isn’t fair, and carry on with our day? I just don’t think that’s enough. There but for the grace of God go a lot of us.