Exclusively breastfed baby denied insurance unless he goes on a diet

La Vida Locavore talks about a case in the USA where a fully-breastfed four month old infant has been denied insurance for being “obese”. The baby is on the 99th percentile for height and weight. They don’t say on which charts: most American physicians are still using old charts based on formula fed babies, not the WHO charts which are based on physiologically normal growth in optimally fed infants. Breastfed babies on average grow faster in the first six months, and slower in the second sixth months, than formula fed babies.

LVL notes that there is no evidence, none whatsoever, to support limited breastfeeding for babies who are growing faster than average. From the original article at the Denver Post:

By the numbers, Alex is in the 99th percentile for height and weight for babies his age. Insurers don’t take babies above the 95th percentile, no matter how healthy they are otherwise. […]

“I’m not going to withhold food to get him down below that number of 95,” Kelli Lange said. “I’m not going to have him screaming because he’s hungry.”

Speedie said not many people seeking individual health insurance are turned down because of weight. But it does happen. Some babies less hefty than Alex have had to get health endorsements from their pediatricians. Adults who have a body-mass index of 30 and above are turned down because they are considered obese.

The Langes, both slender, don’t know where Alex’s propensity for pounds came from. Their other child is thin. No one in their families has a weight problem.

The Langes are counting on the fact that Alex will start shedding pounds when he starts crawling. He is already a kinetic bundle of arm- and leg-waving energy in a baby suit sized for a 9-month-old.

They joked that when he is ready for solid food, they will start him on Slim-Fast.

AMERICA. This is broken. Fix this now.

While we’re on the subject of health insurance exclusions, please read this fantastic post by amandaw at our shiny new group blog, FWD (feminists with disabilities) for a way forward. Excerpt:

Outrageous pre-existing conditions

[…] Because, you see, it is being reported, not as:

Pre-Existing Condition Exclusions Are Morally Wrong, but as

How Dare They Treat DV Victims and Mothers the Same Way They Treat Women with Depression, Diabetes and Cancer!

It is being reported as different from “normal” pre-existing condition exclusions. It is being reported as being especially wrong. As being worse. A true moral violation, taking things to a new level.

But why? […]

So why are these things different? Especially outrageous?

I can’t identify any reason except one.

Because they apply to healthy women.

It’s understandable why health insurance companies would refuse care to women with arthritis. It makes sense that they would deny care to women with psychiatric disorders.

Categories: ethics & philosophy, health, Politics


14 replies

  1. Also, doesn’t being in the 99th percentile for both weight and height suggest that his weight is entirely unsurprising for a baby of his height? What weight percentile ‘should’ a baby in the 99th height percentile be in? Wouldn’t that be what you would hope with regard to the weight of a tall baby, that they’d also weigh more than most other babies?
    I don’t mean at all to imply that a baby whose height percentile is lower than his or her weight percentile is unhealthy or should be denied insurance. And I know tall people are not an oppressed group: the fact that we (I am tall: 99th percentile doesn’t have enough 9s to express my height percentile) get fallout from the weight metrics and fallacies is a shadow of a shadow of how crap this all is.

  2. That refusing of insurance is horrifying! My defacto-nephew is approximately that size (or was, when he was that age), primarily because all the people in his Dad’s family are tall, and the baby is in proportion to his height. He’s a normal, happy, healthy baby from tall genetic stock!

  3. The truly obnoxious thing about the charts is that they are charts for healthy ranges – some babies need to be in the 99% because that’s the way the chart fucking works. It’s a range of growth in normal, healthy breastfed babies. Some babies are big, that’s how it works. At least, that’s my understanding of the charts.
    I hit the 99th percentile from about 4 weeks til I was 2. My sister was in the 10th most of her life.

  4. Also, doesn’t being in the 99th percentile for both weight and height suggest that his weight is entirely unsurprising for a baby of his height?
    True, that.

  5. GGRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!! fdaajasdfjkdlsjfkdlsjfdsf!!!!!! Must! Kill!!!
    *ahem* America’s insurance companies make me verrryyy annngrrryyy.
    I’m sad that even the article reporting on it couldn’t keep fatphobia out of its language.

  6. My husband’s parents are… not just thin, or slim. They are stick figures. VERY skinny. So is my husband. 5’9″, 120lbs.
    He was also a very fat baby.
    I generally assume the weight of an infant or very small child does not necessarily correlate with the weight of the adult they will become, because I’ve never really seen it work that way. It always baffles me that people freak out about fat babies for this reason.
    And thank you for the link!

  7. They’ve backed down now, I gather, due to the bad PR.
    It helps that the baby’s father is a newcaster for an NBC affiliate.
    I’m still appalled, naturally. And I could have done without “the parents are slender” like, oh well then it clearly isn’t their fault that their baby is FAT – and it would have been okay to deny a baby health care if it did have overweight parents?

  8. They have to make it clear that it’s totally NOT THEIR FAULT (because having children which share traits you have is YOUR FAULT for inflicting their imperfect selves on this unsuspecting world!!!!)

  9. Oh, blimey – my first born was 10 lb 2 0z at birth and the ‘little’ so-and-so doubled that in four months on nothing but breastmilk. Breastfed to 6 months (plain wore me out!).
    His sister was just under 8 lb (whew, and again whew) and was often in the clinic sister’s ‘bad books’ because she did not bung on weight quickly enough. She was perfectly happy, perfectly well, and perfectly content. Breastfed to 12 months.
    Gae, in Callala Bay

  10. As a note on the actual figures, a comment elsewhere says the article is wrong or misleading, he’s actually 50th percentile for height, 90th percentile for weight, and 99th percentile weight for height. There’s some clarification about which charts in response to lauredhel below that comment.
    Not that this changes the argument: (a) exclusively breastfed babies are being optimally fed and weight-loss dieting, a notorious failure in most other circumstances, is inconceivably silly in this circumstance (b) by definition, 1% of babies will fall in the 99th percentile, so it’s insane to use percentiles as a measure of individual health (c) he’s entitled to healthcare regardless of whether he’s a big baby or not, a well nourished baby or not, etc.

  11. WHOA! I am absolutely shocked and appalled. Just like other commenters, I had a baby who was very much the same – doubled her birth weight by 4 months, rather than 6 months (which is considered the norm) and was always in the 90th percentile for her weight (and around 80th for her height). We were PROUD of her! It meant she was healthy, not fat. If anything, a baby of that size would have less health problems for their age, not more.
    The American health system has gone beyond a joke.


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