Insurance against what?

Just a very short post today with some food for thought. I spent a good portion of my day yesterday struggling to ascertain whether insurance would pay for certain specific testing on a post-mortem specimen from a patient–that is, a specimen from a dead patient.

As I discovered, almost no autopsy-related charges are ever paid by insurance. They are nearly always incurred and paid by the hospital at their own expense. This seemed bizarre to me as the autopsy was in association with a hospitalization and an illness which was covered by insurance.

However, as a colleague pointed out to me, health insurance is precisely that: insurance of one’s health. All of the preventative services covered, all of the surgeries, they are aimed at keeping a person alive and healthy. Very reasonably, once a person dies, the role of insurance is rendered moot–the company’s obligation to insure anything seems to me to be gone once that insured item doesn’t exist. [1]

Of course, this also raises the question if who should be paying for autopsies? Should the hospital, as they are now? Should another type of post-death insurance be created, if it isn’t already? Should families be billed? (I think this last option is highly undesirable)

It’s an interesting question that I had never had occasion to think about but for now I think I am, amazingly, inclined to agree with the status quo and the idea that insurance against one’s health should not pay for testing or activities that cannot restore that health after death.

As always, I welcome comments and thoughts from others!


  1. except of course in cases where one is insuring theft or damage of property that can be replaced and returned. For now at least, once dead, a person cannot be replaced with a clone or brought back to life. The health insurance industry will have some thinking to do if we ever get to that point…  ↩