Policy-ish

Feeling Someone Else's Pain

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) walks down a hall after a speaking engagement in Chicago in Octo

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, before she broke her foot. Charles Rex Arbogast/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

What's with all the crutches in Congress?

First there was Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who limped to a hearing after tripping over a curb. And this week Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), just back from a Congressional trip to Guantanamo Bay, shows up to a subcommittee meeting with a bad limp.

"I wish there was a dramatic story," she told her fellow committee members yesterday. "I went to Guantanamo and fell, and broke my foot in two places."

But it wasn't her own pain she was feeling in that committee hearing, Schakowsky told me later. Instead she had pangs of sympathy (and anger) listening to the stories of three people who thought they had health insurance — until they got sick.

As the three explained to the committee, their health insurance companies retroactively cancelled their policies because they hadn't disclosed certain unrelated medical conditions on their applications. In one case, the "undisclosed condition" was acne.

The policy review and cancellation came after the insurer learned the woman needed a mastectomy for breast cancer.

That sort of game-playing by insurance companies is an outrage, Schakowsky says, and far worse than a broken foot.

It's embarrassing that the United States, the wealthiest country in the world, is spending more on health care than any other country while delivering worse outcomes.

I'll tell you more about this problem later this week in a story I'm reporting for Morning Edition.

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