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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the wake of news reports that a history of domestic violence is considered a "pre-existing condition" by many health insurers, today Consumer Watchdog released internal insurance company documents showing that firefighters, police officers, war correspondents, expectant fathers, pregnant women and patients with asthma, acne, allergies, and toenail fungus will often be denied health insurance policies.

The internal insurance company documents – known as "underwriting" guidelines – reveal that insurers deny applicants based on occupation, age, weight, use of a wide range of common prescription drugs, minor health conditions or mere “symptoms” that have not been reported to a physician.  In some cases, instead of denying coverage outright insurance companies will sell policies to these applicants but only at exorbitant costs.

“These documents show that just giving the insurance industry an uncontested franchise by requiring Americans to buy policies will not solve the health care crisis.  Americans need a strong 'public option' which would not have the tendency to game the system like private insurers and strong regulation to watch over the industry day-to-day,” said Jerry Flanagan, Consumer Watchdog's Health Policy Director.

*Blue Shield of California & PacifiCare (subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group).

"These documents show why health care reform must include serious curbs on insurance companies including regulation of rates and practices so insurers can't continue to price gouge or find new ways to refuse customers as part of their business model," said Carmen Balber, Consumer Watchdog's D.C. Director.

Download the underwriting documents at:

* PacifiCare (subsidiary of United Health Group).

* Blue Cross of California (subsidiary of WellPoint Inc.).

* Blue Shield of California.

* Health Net.

Click here to read Consumer Watchdog's policy recommendations to regulate health insurance rates and practices in the report "Regulation, Not Deregulation: The Prescription for Lowering Health Costs Without Cutting Coverage (With or Without a Public Option)".

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Consumer Watchdog is a nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, D.C. and Santa Monica, CA. Find us on the web at: www.ConsumerWatchdog.org.