South Florida man's battle with health insurer inspires 'Ian's Law'

The Miami HeraldNovember 10, 2009 

Ian Pearl once feared a tracheal tube inserted into his throat would render him voiceless.

But he got his voice back -- and then some.

He's using it now to bring attention to the issue of discriminatory health insurance practices against the disabled.

The 37-year-old, who lives in Southwest Ranches, is the inspiration for "Ian's Law," legislation being introduced by two New York state legislators that would require insurance companies to get approval from the state before dropping coverage plans for existing clients.

"I fight for my life each day, surviving is a 24/7 job for me," said Pearl, who was born with muscular dystrophy. "This experience was literally another fight for my life."

In and out of hospitals his entire life, Pearl has lived the last 18 years on a ventilator hooked to a tracheal tube. Although the procedure is known for helping those with muscular dystrophy live longer, it can come with a cost: the need for 24-hour medical attention.

The insurance policy purchased by Ian's father in 1981 provided for such care.

But Guardian Life Insurance, which is based in New York, notified the Pearls that it was dropping Ian's coverage in December as part of a companywide restructuring of its insurance policies.

This past year, Pearl's medical expenses totaled almost $1 million.

A memo unearthed by Pearl's attorney referred to costly cases like Pearl's as "dogs" the company needed to rid itself of.

With his insurance set to expire in weeks, Pearl and his family mobilized to draw attention to their case.

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