Very Special Episode Of 'House' Tackles Health Insurance, Prescription Breast Milk

Anyone familiar with the Fox medical hit House knows that the show’s cranky, mad-genius protagonist often makes an end-run around hospital protocol, red tape and common sense. Which means the writers are often forced to omit any pesky “there’s no way that’s covered by their insurance” scenes. But Monday night’s episode got its hands on the hot-button issue of health insurance in an almost realistic way. There was also a guy trying to get a prescription for breast milk.

Unlike your usual hour of House, this week’s show focused on his much-put-upon boss, Dr. Lisa Cuddy, as she tried to negotiate the hurdles of her gig as the hospital’s dean of medicine.

One subplot featured a carpenter, Mr. Acevedo, who was attempting to sue the hospital because they had done too good of a job sewing his thumb back on after he severed it in an accident. The patient’s lawyer explained that his client had asked the docs to do only the small amount of surgery covered by his insurance. But the surgeon, Dr. Chase, decided to go ahead and reattach the thumb anyway.

According to PoliteDissent.com, a blog that exists to pick apart the medical facts and fictions on House, the patient might have a pretty good case:

Both Cuddy and the lawyer are glossing over the key fact that the treatment Mr. Acevedo received was not covered by the informed consent he signed. Chase may have done what he thought was best for the patient, but he did it through lying and dishonesty. Sure, Mr. Acevedo kept his thumb, and this will probably restrain the jury’s and judge’s enthusiasm for a large payout, but there is clear written evidence that Chase was deceitful in his treatment of the patient. The hospital’s insurance company will pay this off long before it sees a courtroom. And as for Chase, skipping informed consent or lying on it is a good way to lose a medical license.

Now to the guy trying to get a scrip for mother’s milk. A cancer patient had heard that breast milk could be used as a treatment for his disease but could not afford to pay for it himself, so he went to Cuddy with the misguided notion that his insurance will pay for anything, so long as there’s a prescription. Unfortunately, as Scott from Polite Dissent confirms, “the insurance company will not pay for it, even with a prescription — they’ll consider it an experimental treatment.”

So the moral of this story? Don’t get your medical or insurance advice from TV. That’s what the Internet is for.

Episode 13 (Season 6): “5 to 9″ [Polite Dissent]