The tears of a clown (with no insurer around)

In America, Land of the Uninsured, you probably have to live without health coverage if you drive a tiny car and wear big shoes, saddle up ponies, jump through sugar-glass windows or play a sport (semi) professionally... that's right, abort those childhood dreams of what to be when you grow up!

As the mother of a teen girl who has passionately ridden horses for the past eight years and wants a barn job, imagine my shock at learning that some insurance companies refuse health coverage to anyone who works at a stable. (Even those unfortunate ones who simply rake out hay and horse patties? Just how common is an equestrian kick to the head??).

What about that son who wants to go to clown college? (OK, not my son; maybe yours) or the youth who pines to swing from a trapeze? He/she will likely be forced to live without health insurance since circus and carnival workers are lepers to insurance companies, too. The death of a circus performer under investigation by Cal OSHA this week points out that safety harnesses and nets don't always take away the risk.

And you better squash every child's fantasy of being a sports star or the stunt double in James Bond movies. Semi-pro or professional sports players and stunt workers are also shunned in insurance circles. Any aspirations to turn pro on that ubitiquous childhood pastime - tree climbing? Nix that!

According to an investigation by the LA Times, a whole whack of occupations can render workers ineligible for health insurance under the policies of some insurance companies. Other than clowns, stunt men and stable hands, they include

  • Transportation and aviation; air traffic control
  • War reporting
  • Moving and building stuff
  • Telecommunications installation
  • Firefighting
  • Crop dusting
  • Migrant labor
  • Chemical/rubber manufacturing
  • Oil well or refinery work
  • Concrete or asphalt work
  • Furniture and fixtures manufacturing
  • Stockyard work, with or without butchering
  • Roofing
  • Police work
  • Lumber work, including wood chopping, timber cutting and working in a sawmill
  • Sandblasting
  • Window work at heights exceeding three stories
  • Tunnel and trench work

The LA Times drew these conclusions from the guidelines published by major health plan brokers in California. The newspaper found that Blue Shield of California, PacifiCare Health Systems Inc. and Health Net Inc. routinely exclude applicants based on occupation. (California's largest seller of individual policies, Blue Cross of California, does not deny policies based on jobs, the paper found.)

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