Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The downside of making postpartum depression sexy.:

As Brooke Shields testifies in her recent memoir, into many a postpartum life a little rain must fall. And evidently, a little Tom Cruise as well: someone who tops off a struggling new mother's depression with a downpour of judgment and misunderstanding. When Cruise blasted Shields on national television for using antidepressants to treat her postpartum depression, I thought, "Wow, he'd get along great with my health-insurance underwriters." They slapped me with a five-year penalty of raised premiums because I sought help for depression following the birth of my daughter.

In July 2004, my husband and I applied for personal health insurance from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Virginia. He had left his job to start his own company, and I was self-employed, so we began looking for family coverage while the COBRA clock ticked. Because I was blessed with lifelong health, the "medical information" page of my application was relatively brief. I listed a prescription for Clomid, a fertility drug I'd taken while trying to conceive my daughter, and a single appointment I'd had with a psychiatrist after she was born, regarding the possibility of postpartum depression.

Shortly after we submitted our paperwork to Anthem's headquarters in Roanoke, the letters started arriving in our mailbox. My application was under review. More information was needed. Then another letter arrived. My husband and 9-month-old daughter had been approved for coverage at Level 1, the company's best rating. I had been rejected. The reason: the psychiatrist appointment.

Short takeaway: never tell your insurer that you've ever been depressed. Chilling stuff.