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Breastfeeding infant labeled obese, denied health insurance

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Oct 11, 2009 at 08:25:55 AM PDT

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Breastfed babies can be long and lean, short and fat, or anywhere in between. But I never heard of an insurance company citing a breastfeeding infant's "obesity" as a pre-existing condition before reading this story from the Denver Post:

By the numbers, [four-month-old] Alex [Lange] is in the 99th percentile for height and weight for babies his age. Insurers don't take babies above the 95th percentile, no matter how healthy they are otherwise. [...]

Bernie and Kelli Lange tried to get insurance for their growing family with Rocky Mountain Health Plans when their current insurer raised their rates 40 percent after Alex was born. They filled out the paperwork and awaited approval, figuring their family is young and healthy. But the broker who was helping them find new insurance called Thursday with news that shocked them.

" 'Your baby is too fat,' she told me," Bernie said.

Up until then, the Langes had been happy with Alex's healthy appetite and prodigious weight gain. His pediatrician had never mentioned any weight concerns about the baby they call their "happy little chunky monkey." [...]

"I'm not going to withhold food to get him down below that number of 95," Kelli Lange said. "I'm not going to have him screaming because he's hungry."

Good call, Mrs. Lange. There is "no evidence to support 'dieting' or substituting other foods or liquids for human milk to reduce weight gain." It's outrageous for an insurance company to use Alex's weight at four months of age as an excuse to deny coverage.

desmoinesdem :: Breastfeeding infant labeled obese, denied health insurance
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what a horrible story (4.00 / 1)
There may be more to it than that...the family may be somehow overfeeding the kid (though that's not at all the only possibility here) but to deny a child health insurance because of weight is unconscionable.

I'm a single payer advocate, though. So I think it's ALL unconscionable.

This story is particularly egregious, though.  

"If God were to appear to starving people, he would not dare to appear in any other form than food." - Mahatma Gandhi

overfeeding (4.00 / 2)
I don't know, isn't breastfeeding somewhat self-limiting?

The Post won't let me in to read the article right now. I'll be interested in seeing more detail. I wonder how big the baby was at birth.

[ Parent ]
8 1/2 lbs at birth (4.00 / 3)
17 lbs at 4 mos. Keep in mind, he is also in the 99th for height. Also, the parents are not overweight and neither is their other child. Sounds like this baby, like all babies, is growing to his own tune ;) The parents claim he's getting pretty active, lots of leg and arm movement, and they figure he'll slim down when he gets mobile. Again, just like many babies do.  

[ Parent ]
oh, I see (4.00 / 2)
they're only looking at weight and not adjusting for other outlier characteristics.


count also makes a good point that if the baby is only being breastfed, to refuse insurance because of diet is (I'll say) quite mad.

"If God were to appear to starving people, he would not dare to appear in any other form than food." - Mahatma Gandhi

[ Parent ]
Seems to me (4.00 / 3)
The insurance companies should just stay the f*ck out of it.

So I guess the rule for obesity is: you ate, therefore, it's a pre-existing condition?

Hmm, I've been skinny my whole life. I guess that's a pre-existing condition also.

[ Parent ]
I just read through the comments (4.00 / 3)
at the article:

What calculator were they using? Any one I tried says he is 90-95% for weight to length ratio. My 4 boys were all big at birth and chunky breastfeed infants. All started walking at 10 months and slimmed right down, so much so my pediatrician worried that one would continue to decline in weight if I nursed after his first birthday. I was vindicated because this was the time studies showed extended breastfeeding could prevent later obesity.

What chart are they using? From the ones at he's under the 95th percentile! In fact I can't find any that would put him over.

And for his age, he's in about the 80% percentile.

This article minimizes the impact of health insurance denial on adult Americans with a BMI of 30 or over. Readers should check out the BMI Project (, a slideshow of photos that show you what different BMI's really look like on people: you'll see that a BMI of 30 is not what most of us think of as "obese." Hence, there are a lot of adults who are being denied health insurance for weight.

Bolds are mine :)

[ Parent ]
well done (4.00 / 1)
I'm sure the insurance companies have whole buildings full of people paid to invent these sorts of excuses to deny coverage.

"If God were to appear to starving people, he would not dare to appear in any other form than food." - Mahatma Gandhi

[ Parent ]
hard to overfeed (4.00 / 2)
an exclusively breastfed baby. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, just unlikely.

It's easier to overfeed a formula-fed baby, but even then it's far more likely than a big chubby formula-fed four-month-old is simply growing normally.

[ Parent ]
Change is good. (4.00 / 2)
Colorado insurer changes course on fat infants

The company attributed the boy's rejection for health coverage to "a flaw in our underwriting system."

I'm just guessing - when the insurance company's medical director read the application, he overlooked the box that said the father was a TV news anchor. I'd think that insurance companies would stop doing things like this while the health reform debate is going on. They must know that these stories are what make the rest of us so furious.

Interesting (4.00 / 3)
The insurer said Monday it would change its policy for babies that are healthy but fat. The company attributed the boy's rejection for health coverage to "a flaw in our underwriting system."

First off, calling the baby obese/fat is just wrong. It's a big baby looking at the pic, but doesn't stike me as obese/fat. And I like the way they threw "healthy" in there. Means they will just find other ways to define healthy and deny.

[ Parent ]
Whoa! Let's do the math (4.00 / 1)
If insurers don't take babies above the 95th percentile, that means that 5% of all babies in the United States are being denied health insurance.  Given that there were 4 million babies born in the US in 2006 (US Statistical Abstract), that would be 200,000 Alex Langes. If one in 20 are uninsured for size, that's about one per classroom.   We'd all know an uninsured Alex Lange or three.  

I don't know what happened to this family, (and I would not be surprised if they were treated badly by the insurer,)  but this journalist didn't get to the bottom of it.  As written, this just doesn't make sense.

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