September 19, 2012

Bearded Ladies Pay Extra

As some of you may know, I rung in the new year happily jobless.  But in cutting loose a job that made me miserable, I also lost some pretty cushy benefits which my new job hasn’t replaced.  And that’s okay, really--it's a small price to pay for happiness--but applying for brand new insurance has been a pain in the butt.  Particularly life insurance.

There’s no need to go into the details, really, other than to say the company I’ve been dealing with seemed very concerned by this cyst on my ovary.  I had to jump through a few little hoops to get them the information they asked for, including driving across town for ultrasound results which subsequently got lost or never arrived, making them ask me to go across town to get them again when they would not release them to me without a request from the insurance company first... and then I wasn't notified when the original information was finally found.  And after more than a month of silence, I received a letter.

They’re unable to offer me the original premium, but not because of my ovary.  Because of my idiopathic hirsutism.  If I want their life insurance, I have to pay a higher rate.

How high?  Two-thirds of the way to the amount I’d have to pay if I were a smoker.  That’s how risky the medical underwriters deem idiopathic hirsutism.


Now, I used to sell health insurance as part of my last job.  I had to explain risk categories to many, many upset people.  These people had some frightening pre-existing conditions.  I cannot comprehend how idiopathic hirsutism would up anyone’s risk category.

I could understand if the hair had a serious underlying cause that could affect your overall health, like PCOS or a tumor.  But if the underwriters had my health records, they would have been able to see I was tested for such causes and have been found healthy, the hirsutism inexplicable.  There are no known health risks associated with my being hairy, except the side-effects of the medication I choose to take, which I’ve been tolerating for well for over a year now.

I wondered if they thought hirsutism made me a higher suicide risk, but if that is an indicator of someone’s mental health risk, maybe they should be asking all their applicants to submit photos of themselves so they can evaluate the self esteem each applicant should have based on how they look.  Ridiculous, right?

So the only other thing I could think of that would scare an underwriter is the fact that there is no known cause.  But see, if it were that much of a danger to my life, wouldn’t a doctor treat it as such, too?  Why, when no cause was found, did the focus turn to helping me live with the cosmetic aspects of it, if it was indeed so dangerous to have?  A vulnerability to normal amounts of male hormones in one's body also manifests as acne and excess sebum.  Are people with bad skin penalized too?  I mean, their underlying cause can be just as "idiopathic."

It just flies in the face of what I’ve been trying to tell myself for so long; that idiopathic hirsutism is a simple genetic quirk, out of my control and not such a big deal.  Now I have to pay more because I have it?  Do I at least get a discount for having blue eyes?  Maybe I should advise the company that I faint when I get needles, and see how much more I have to pay for that.  That, at least, presents a real risk of smashing my head open when I fall unconscious to the floor.  This infuriates me, and it infuriates me that it infuriates me.

I wish I could speak to these underwriters, just to understand why.  Why am I being penalized for the ability to grow a beard when I am otherwise young and healthy?  Do they even know what idiopathic hirsutism is?  Or does their little price chart have a column that assigns a dollar value to anything with “idiopathic” preceding it?  But alas, even when I sold insurance and had all sorts of backways and direct phone numbers, the underwriters were ensconced in some holy sanctum that no one could reach.  My chances of getting to speak to the anonymous decision-maker who looked at my medical records and judged my life based on my hairiness of all things, are probably nil.

So do I swallow my wounded bearded-lady pride and pay the higher premium?  Or do I continue my quest for life insurance and hope I don’t die of skin sensitivity to normal amounts of androgen until I’m covered?

No comments: