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Anthem/BCBS: Taking antidepressant equivalent risk to smoking


Barbarannamated
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COMMENT: I have been aware of this issue since I heard a commercial for health insurance with the hook "are your health insurance rates high because you're a smoker or have taken an antidepressant?". I found a few articles indicating that TAKING AN ANTIDEPRESSANT or seeing a therapist automatically puts people into a high risk category for health as well as life insurance. The question on life insurance applications is "Have you ever been treated for depression or used an antidepressant?"

 

This article addresses the quandary of using Wellbutrin/Zyban/bupropion to quit smoking. The use of the antidepressant remains in the medical record and becomes its own new risk even though the original risk of smoking is diminished.

 

The critical point is that ANY ANTIDEPRESSANT carries this same implication and puts people in higher risk category. I believe this risk applies to any usage of antidepressants: pain, PMDD, menopausal symptoms, etc.

 

ANTHEM BLUE CROSS/BLUE SHIELD THINKS SMOKING AND DEPRESSION ARE BASICALLY THE SAME THING

https://consumerist.com/2012/02/anthem-blue-crossblue-shield-thinks-smoking-and-depression-are-basically-the-same-thing.html

By Laura Northrup on February 1, 2012 8:00 AM

Short URL: http://con.st/10026973

 

Wellbutrin is an atypical antidepressant used to treat patients with depression, but it's also effective when used short-term to help people quit smoking. As far as Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield is concerned, then, if you're using Wellbutrin, you're a smoker. For people whose health insurance comes from their employers, this isn't as much of a problem. But the individual health insurance market is a cruel, unforgiving place where smokers pay higher premiums. And so reader Elizabeth's husband, who quit smoking more than four years ago, is slapped with the smoker's rate because he has a prescription for Wellbutrin, which they consider an "atypical tobacco product."

 

According to Anthem/BlueCross BlueShield, quitting smoking won't help you lower your health insurance premiums, especially if you use an anti-depressant to do it.

 

I finally trimmed our budget enough to purchase adequate health insurance for my husband. We found a great rate through Anthem/BCBS via eHealthInsurance.com and immediately applied.

 

The estimate was about $89 per month and covered all the preventative care we wanted. Obviously, I expected the premium to be higher than the estimate and budgeted accordingly. I was shocked when we received the bill and saw the premium was $137 per month - over 50% more than the initial estimate.

 

Upon calling Anthem, we were told that my husband received a poor health grade because the phone interview notes listed him as a smoker. When we explained that my husband hasn't had a cigarette since November 2007, the agent advised us to submit a Statement of Appeal, requesting the grade be reviewed based on my husband's non-smoking status.

 

Our appeal was denied on the grounds that my husband takes Wellbutrin - a medication that Anthem considers to be an alternative tobacco product. According to the underwriter my husband contacted, the ruling that "Wellbutrin = tobacco" had come from a high level consultant and could not be appealed.

 

*When my husband asked if he could change to a different medication, he was told that any anti-depressant would result in the same grade reduction and rate hike.

 

In short, Anthem/BCBS considers taking an anti-depressant an equivalent health risk to smoking cigarettes*

Perhaps they think that balanced brain chemistry causes lung cancer?

 

That's it! Non-smoking Wellbutrin patients are too balanced for their own good!

 

Here, for the record, is the exact text of that letter sent after the unsuccessful appeal:

 

Dear Mr. [redacted]

 

We have received additional information that you submitted for us to reconsider our decision regarding your application for individual health care coverage.

 

Although careful consideration has been given, we regret we are still unable to grant your request. This decision was based on Other Tobacco Products such as Wellbutrin is Used for Smoking Replacement.

 

We appreciate your interest in our services. If you have any questions, please contact your agent or an Underwriting representative at 1-866-282-2157 for further assistance.

Pristiq tapered over 8 months ending Spring 2011 after 18 years of polydrugging that began w/Zoloft for fatigue/general malaise (not mood). CURRENT: 1mg Klonopin qhs (SSRI bruxism), 75mg trazodone qhs, various hormonesLitigation for 11 years for Work-related injury, settled 2004. Involuntary medical retirement in 2001 (age 39). 2012 - brain MRI showing diffuse, chronic cerebrovascular damage/demyelination possibly vasculitis/cerebritis. Dx w/autoimmune polyendocrine failure.<p>2013 - Dx w/CNS Sjogren's Lupus (FANA antibodies first appeared in 1997 but missed by doc).

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It appears that this article has been pulled from The Consumerist site. Links don't work and Google search brings up this thread. Interesting.

Pristiq tapered over 8 months ending Spring 2011 after 18 years of polydrugging that began w/Zoloft for fatigue/general malaise (not mood). CURRENT: 1mg Klonopin qhs (SSRI bruxism), 75mg trazodone qhs, various hormonesLitigation for 11 years for Work-related injury, settled 2004. Involuntary medical retirement in 2001 (age 39). 2012 - brain MRI showing diffuse, chronic cerebrovascular damage/demyelination possibly vasculitis/cerebritis. Dx w/autoimmune polyendocrine failure.<p>2013 - Dx w/CNS Sjogren's Lupus (FANA antibodies first appeared in 1997 but missed by doc).

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Goes to show you that big Pharma, medicine and big insurance, as well as the government are all sleeping in the same bed.

History:

1995--Prozac--Quit CT by GP

1995--Effexor--Quit per my GP

1996--Amitriphene--Quit CT when changed GP

2005--Citalopram and BusPar. Prescribed when I decompensated in my GP's office. GP referred me to behavior health. Psychiatrist prescibed these drugs. Taken off citalopram in 2011 due to FDA warning. Quit Buspar during transition to viibryd.

Viibryd--2011 to present. Had a severe reaction in March 2012. Advised both GP and Psychiatrist I was trying to get off these drugs.

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Pristiq tapered over 8 months ending Spring 2011 after 18 years of polydrugging that began w/Zoloft for fatigue/general malaise (not mood). CURRENT: 1mg Klonopin qhs (SSRI bruxism), 75mg trazodone qhs, various hormonesLitigation for 11 years for Work-related injury, settled 2004. Involuntary medical retirement in 2001 (age 39). 2012 - brain MRI showing diffuse, chronic cerebrovascular damage/demyelination possibly vasculitis/cerebritis. Dx w/autoimmune polyendocrine failure.<p>2013 - Dx w/CNS Sjogren's Lupus (FANA antibodies first appeared in 1997 but missed by doc).

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