By Christine Whitmarsh, RN, BSN
Preexisting conditions are a part of life. In fact, some say that simply being born qualifies as a preexisting medical condition. Yet it has been a traditional part of health insurance practice to charge higher premiums for individuals with any significant medical history and in some cases deny them coverage all together. This type of policy has been a long standing source of tension between insurance companies and healthcare providers. Nurses in particular are on the frontlines of some sticky insurance situations, in which delivering excellent patient care is the priority and is what they are trained to do, but the ‘red tape’ of insurance seems to be preventing them from doing their jobs. Travel nurses have no doubt seen similar incarnations of this situation from assignment to assignment throughout the country. The good news, for staff and travel RNs alike, is that health insurance companies are finally seeing the light and indicating a willingness to change their rigid ways.
Faced with the prospect of losing customers to the “free” universal health insurance proposed by the Obama administration, major insurance providers such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield stated in a public letter recently published by the associated press, that they would be “willing to phase out the practice of varying premiums based on health status in the individual market if all Americans are required to get coverage.” I guess if it’s not possible to make patient care their motivation for this flexibility, this is the next best thing. The concept of “universal healthcare” has been touted since the Clinton administration (Bill, not Hillary), yet it is worth noting that this appears to be the first public concessionary reaction on the part of private insurance companies.
Registered nurses and RNs on travel assignment throughout our nation’s hospitals understand the importance of health insurance that covers patients during the time they need it the most. Ironically, or not so, it is patients with pertinent medical history such as diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions that significantly alter an individual’s quality of life, who require the most medical care. Time will only tell if a healthy dose of competition between private and government insurance will benefit patients and the dedicated nurses and travel nurses who care for them.
Christine Whitmarsh is a Registered Nurse with a BSN from the University of Rhode Island. She is a freelance health journalist and medical writer and a contributor to Travel Nurse Source and Allied Travel Careers.