CHICAGO (CBS) — Victimized again – that’s how a suburban woman feels after she said an insurance company denied her one level of coverage because of her past mental health issues.
The issues stemmed from a violent assault. And as CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reported Thursday night, the woman is not alone.
“It’s like shaming, like, ‘Well, because this happened to you and you needed to go on medication,’ like I was embarrassed,” said Kelley Kitley.
It was something that Kitley never expected – a dive into her painful past, and then complete denial by an insurance underwriter, that left her reeling.
“They said that I was too high-risk from some of the history that they had found, mainly focusing on the substance abuse and the medication that I was on to be treated for post-traumatic stress disorder – from being sexually assaulted 20 years ago,” she said.
Kitley began searching for insurance for her family of six earlier this month, after her husband lost his coverage. She never expected past mental health-related issues would be a factor.
She was even more shocked to learn that she could still get coverage under the plan – but instead of paying $1,500 a month, her broker told her it would now cost $3,500.
“I felt like somebody punched me in the gut when I received this information,” Kitley said. “I could not believe it.”
Experts said her concern is justified.
“It absolutely raises questions for an individual to be told that their insurance is costing more as a result of a mental health condition,” said Jen McGowan-Tomke of the National Alliance on Mental Health-Chicago.
And McGowan-Tomke said it is likely illegal under the Affordable Care Act, which bans preexisting conditions be considered for insurance pricing and coverage.
“The big problem is that people are experiencing discrimination like this every day,” she said.
Kitley and her broker have already written a letter appealing her situation. But McGowan-Tomke said it is important that people also file formal complaints about health insurance discrimination through agencies such as the Illinois Department of Insurance.
There is a national push to begin tracking allegations of discrimination, especially when it comes to mental health parity.
“Because this is the primary way that we know if something is going on in the community,” McGowan-Tomke said.
Kitley’s insurance broker refused to speak with Kozlov, so she could not discuss specifics of the U.S. Health Group plan in question. Kozlov also reached out to U.S. Health Group with no response late Thursday.
Meanwhile, Kitley continues to look for a policy her family can afford.