Should Smokers and the Obese be Denied Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery – No

Denying medical treatment based on personal habits or physical condition is the first step down a very treacherous path. Insurance companies seem to be going out of their way to find new and creative ways to deny the claims of their customers. This is hardly a practice that is confined to medical insurance as it is happening across the board with car insurance, homeowners insurance and even life insurance. Allowing medical insurance companies to start denying certain procedures based on a person’s smoking habits or weight issues is the first step to even more denials by the insurance companies.

It is difficult to argue that smoking and obesity are not issues of health that need to be addressed. There have been countless studies on smoking that document its health dangers. Yet the federal government still allows the sale of tobacco; a substance that has proven to be a carcinogenic, dangerous to the population and the cause for numerous terminal illnesses. If smoking is such a terrible practice that your health insurance carrier can use it as a basis for denying services then it should be outlawed by the federal government.

Only recently has obesity been seen as another life threatening disease. Linked to heart disease, hyper-tension and diabetes, obesity is a growing concern that is getting more attention today than ever. This is largely due to the increase in the number of people that are labeled obese. While there is much to be debated regarding how someone is determined to be obese, the facts are inescapable that the average American’s weight is above healthy limits. However, this is no reason to deny someone medical treatment. Especially if that medical treatment is for a procedure that is triggered specifically by their obesity.

Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery is not an elective procedure. It is not a cosmetic alteration of the body for personal gain. It is a procedure that more often than not is intended to save a person’s life. An insurance company or any entity has no right to deny such a procedure to anyone, regardless of the condition or personal habits they might have. Especially when the insurance companies have no problem collecting the same amount of money for premiums from obese smokers as they do healthy non-smokers.

The economics of the situation are not lost on this debate. It is understood that smokers and obese patients are far more likely to need such costly medical procedures than those healthier. As a result, such customers of health insurance carriers can result in higher costs to the insurance company. This is simply a method by which they can reduce their overall cost risk. But this doesn’t make such a policy right. Profitability is one thing, but insurance companies have an obligation to their customers and medical professionals to their patience that outweighs profitability. It’s unfortunate that most insurance companies seemed to have lost sight of this.