The Buck Starts Here

This Father’s Day I am truly blessed. My wife delivered our second child last week and I was able to share a wonderful weekend with my family.

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As a family, we face challenges, as every family does. We are lucky that our children are healthy and that the problems are not greater. We don’t expect life to be easy, we know and understand that life can be tough at times.  But there are times when roadblocks are put in our way that make life more difficult than it needs to be.

My wife and I shared one of those difficulties and it is a story I’d like to share.

When we had our first child, my wife and I were each self-employed and had individual health plans.  Even though we had health care, if we got pregnant the health care company wouldn’t cover it because these plans almost always do not cover pregnancy.  As I quickly learned, women are not treated very well by our health care system.  We had to get an expensive pregnancy rider for her plan – with a waiting period for coverage, but not for the premiums.

Individual health care policies are still not required to cover pregnancy – an inequity that will be eliminated in 2014 thanks to Obamacare.

Months after getting our health care policies, with great joy we got pregnant. We were shocked by the response from our health care company: they denied our coverage but told us if we got pregnant in two months it would be covered. Even with the pregnancy rider and even though denying coverage was in clear violation of state law.

The pregnancy rider in the policy that was mailed to us, buried somewhere in the lengthy document full of small print, was nine months. It was advertised online as 60 days. State law limits pregnancy rider waiting periods to 60 days, but our insurance company held the line.

We were forced to go through a lengthy, internal appeals process with strict deadlines on us but with response deadlines that were constantly missed by the insurance company.

The agony dragged on for over half a year while we looked for alternatives – the only way my wife could have received real coverage, as a self-employed individual, was to divorce me and get coverage through Medicare.

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We were both educated working professionals who tried to do all the right things but divorce was our best alternative?

We persevered and as soon as our appeal reached the state office that regulated insurance companies we got a very different letter from the insurance company. This time, without acknowledging that they had been in the wrong, the insurance company said they would cover us – though they were not required to.

After months of trying to find alternatives, worrying about potential expensive delivery problems and trips to the hospital to deal with pregnancy complications this is what it came down to: the threat of government enforcing the law.

That experience has fundamentally shaped me both as a parent and as an advocate for treating women fairly.

While we take time to celebrate our mothers and our fathers we take too little time to think about what these fights in Washington, DC and state capitols across the country mean to people.

Life can be hard, sometimes unnecessarily so. For all the complaints we have about government it is important to keep in mind that sometimes it can make our lives better, too.

About Bill Buck

Bill Buck is a Democratic strategist, President of the Buck Communications Group, a media relations and new media strategies consulting business based in Washington, DC, and Managing Director of the online ad firm Influence DSP. He has over twenty years of international and national communications experience. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.

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