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Rachel Bates says her daughter Aislin “is not sick at all; she’s just petite and that’s the issue.” The tot's doctor agrees.
TODAY
updated 10/21/2009 9:53:59 AM ET 2009-10-21T13:53:59

First, a Colorado baby was turned down for health insurance for being too big. Now, another Colorado child has been turned down for health insurance for being too small.

Just a week after TODAY highlighted the story of 4-month-old Alex Lange, who at 17 pounds was considered obese, the show presented Wednesday the equally curious case of 2-year-old Aislin Bates, who at 22 pounds was turned down for health insurance for not meeting a proposed insurer’s height and weight standards.

Aislin’s dad, Robert Bates, told TODAY’s Erin Burnett he was shocked that United HealthCare turned down their request for coverage when their daughter is basically a picture of health, having suffered nothing more than a common cold in her life. Doctors have told Robert and his wife, Rachel, that Aislin’s small size is purely a matter of genes, not ill health.

“It seems as if they’re discriminating about the fact that she’s smaller, that her size is an issue,” Robert Bates said. “I don’t see why that would be a factor in whether or not a child is healthy.”

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Bates told TODAY that he and his family were previously insured by United HealthCare. Two months after Aislin was born, his employer switched plans to Guardian Health Insurance. In August, Bates left his job to become self-employed, and he went back to United HealthCare requesting coverage. The insurer turned down coverage for Aislin — even though it had already insured Aislin as an infant — stating she did not meet height and weight standards and also noting the Bateses had sought treatment for Aislin’s finicky eating habits.

TODAY
Aislin, whose nickname is 'Pixie,' has been attending food therapy for her picky eating.

Doctor says child is normal
As the Bateses appealed the decision, their own family doctor went to bat for them, writing to the insurer and stating Aislin’s small size was genetic, that she was developing normally and there was no reason to deny coverage. But Robert Bates said the company rejected the appeal, simply reiterating that Aislin didn’t meet underwriting standards.

Rachel Bates told Burnett their daughter “is not sick at all; she’s just petite, and that’s the issue.” She said little Aislin has been graded in the 3rd percentile for child height and weight, but has been progressing normally in her own range.

Robert and Rachel realized Aislin was a picky eater early on, and went the extra mile to enroll her in food therapy. But instead of earning brownie points with the insurer, the family believes having their daughter in treatment is actually being held against them.

Therapy for picky eating
“We wanted to fix her picky eating, because we want her to be able to eat a wide variety of foods, and not just things she wants to eat, like chocolate,” Rachel Bates told TODAY.

“We personally sought out therapy; it was not prescribed by a doctor. In the process, it was found that [Aislin] has just a minor, minor gag reflex, causing her to not like certain foods. But the therapist says she’s thriving and fine, and she’s developing normally and in fact, possibly advanced.”

Appearing on TODAY with the Bates family, which also includes 3-month-old boy Elliott, Dr. Nancy Snyderman quickly broke in when Burnett professed she didn’t understand what the problem is with insuring Aislin.

“You don’t understand? Because there’s nothing here to understand,” Snyderman said. “This is just so bogus. A pre-existing condition for a child this age is birth, let’s be real!”

Video: Baby denied insurance for being ‘too fat’ The case of Alex Lange had a happy ending. After the family appeared on TODAY, Rocky Mountain Health Plans reversed its decision and agreed to insure the child, and admitted there was a flaw in its underwriting system.

‘Cherry-picking of health plans’
Robert Bates, to date, has had no such luck. While he continues to lobby United HealthCare to cover Aislin, the family has been forced to look at other options. Aislin is currently insured under a COBRA plan from Bates’ previous job, but it expires in 18 months.

Snyderman was clearly agitated that the Bates family has to go through worry and uncertainty over insuring Aislin, and said her prognosticating skills have unfortunately been proven accurate.

“Last week we talked about how crazy it was that there was a chubby baby being denied, and I said next thing you know, we’ll hear about the skinny kid. So here’s the skinny kid,” she said, pointing to Aislin.

“I think what we’re really seeing is the cherry-picking of health care plans across the country,” Snyderman said, adding, “If anyone doubted the significance of health care reform in this country, this is why things have to change.

“This is egregious.”

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Video: Petite tot denied insurance

  1. Closed captioning of: Petite tot denied insurance

    >>> back now at 8:09. for the second time in a month, a colorado child is at the center of a controversial health insurance case. last week, we met alex, a healthy 4-month-old who was originally denied coverage for being too fat. well, now the parents of a 2-year-old girl claim she was deemed too thin. we're going to be talking with the bates family you see there in a moment, but first, the little girl 's story. as far as rob and rachel bates are concerned, their 2-year-old daughter is a healthy 22-pound girl. the family's health insurance company disagrees and has denied coverage for azlyn, citing height and weight guidelines. the case is reminiscent of another colorado child who made headlines earlier this month. rocky mountain health plans denied coverage for 4-month-old alex lange, because he was considered obese at 17 pounds. his company has since changed its policy and will no longer consider obesity a pre-existing condition. the bates have admitted azlyn is undergoing treatment for an active gag reflex . that could be a factor in the insurance company 's decision to deny coverage. the statement released by golden rule insurance says, "if a child 's treatment results in a change in condition after the treatment ends, we would reconsider coverage for that child ." and the bates family joins us now along with dr. nancy snyderman , nbc's chief medical editor. good to have you with us. and thanks for bringing your family.

    >> thank you.

    >> yes.

    >> absolutely.

    >> she's on her best behavior, and so is little elliott over there. so, what happened here? she's not sick.

    >> no, she's not sick at all. she was full-term, you know, and weighed 6 pounds, 6 ounces when she was born and she's just petite, and that's the issue. she has always been in the third percentile and following her own curve, but she was a picky eater, and you know, her being in the third percentile and a picky eater, we just wanted to be proactive parents and get her therapy to fix the picky eating, because we want her to be able to eat a wide variety of foods and not just things she wants to eat like chocolate.

    >> that sounds pretty normal.

    >> yeah, pretty normal. so, we personally sought out the therapy, not the doctor. it was not prescribed by the doctor. it was not -- you know, obviously, we told our doctor we were doing it, but it was not --

    >> and this was just to help her eat better foods, eat more --

    >> eat better foods, yeah.

    >> more variety.

    >> and in that process, it was just found that she has a minor -- minor -- gag reflex , which was causing her to not like certain foods. and so, she's been in therapy for ten weeks and is doing great and the therapist even says that she's thriving and fine. and she's developing normal. in fact, possibly advanced.

    >> so, rob, what happened? i know you were switching jobs, right?

    >> that's right, yeah.

    >> so that's when this sort of happened. and i have a letter here that rachel -- thank you for sharing with me -- from united health care golden rule where they said "we are unable to provide coverage because her height and weight do not meet our company standards."

    >> correct.

    >> and that's because it was a pre-existing condition? did they -- why?

    >> yeah, we're not sure. you know, it seems as if they're discriminating about the fact that she's got -- that she's smaller, that her size is an issue. but i don't see why that would be a factor in whether or not a child is healthy.

    >> dr. nancy, i don't understand. if a doctor says --

    >> you don't understand? because there's nothing here to understand. this is just so bogus. you know, when -- a pre-existing condition for a child this age is birth. let's be real. so, that's the pre-existing condition. so, she doesn't fit on the normal growth curve . they say that's the 50th percentile, but if every child who goes to the pediatrician gets height and weight plotted over the years, not everyone's at 509th percentile. but if you're at the 1st or 3rd percentile, but you're growing at your own curve, that should not be a hit against you. and even if there were a medical problem, even if she couldn't eat or she has a metabolic or gastrointestinal problem, don't you want to help her? why would you deny somebody health care ?

    >> a child .

    >> and if an insurance company is part of our health care system , i think there's a moral and ethical obligation to say we're part of the bigger picture. this is egregious.

    >> is this commonplace? also, what about colorado ? rach rachel , you live in colorado . the baby last week was from colorado . are they saying --

    >> they're not boding well for colorado right now.

    >> i know.

    >> i think what we're really seeing is the cherry-picking of health care plans across the country. last week we talked about how crazy it was that there was a chubby baby being denied, and i said next thing you know, we'll hear about a skinny kid. so, here's the skinny kid. now i think there are probably parents all over the country saying, oh, my gosh, that's me, and we're going to hear more of these.

    >> what are you going to do about health care , try again with united health care , or --

    >> yeah, we're hoping they'll change their minds. we've already appealed once and found that didn't work. we just got another denial letter. so, we'll just have to see. but beyond that, we're going to continue on with the cobra plan and then look into other options.

    >> if anyone doubted the significance of health care reform in this country, this is why things have to change.

    >> right.

    >> this is ridiculous that in a nation this wealthy and this strong, that we're denying care to people who need it.

    >> well, thank you so much for coming in. and i know, azlyn, that your nickname is pixie, which is very appropriate. so, thanks so much for coming in and also to dr. nancy.

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