A major health insurer has agreed to stop using the term “mental retardation” after a family complained when the phrase was used to describe their daughter’s condition.
Kraig and Jennipher Beahn were stunned when they received a letter from Cigna a few weeks back that included a reference to “mental retardation.” The correspondence was related to their 10-month-old daughter, Kennedi, who has Down syndrome.
“We had never heard the ‘r’ word spoken from any of our friends, acquaintances or medical professionals,” Kraig Beahn told WCTV.
The Tallahassee, Fla. parents sprung into action, writing and emailing the insurance provider to ask that the company use “intellectual disability” instead.
“When we initially received Cigna’s letter with such language, oriented towards our child … our hearts simply stopped beating,” the couple wrote.
Within days, Cigna not only apologized to the family, but committed to modify the terminology it uses companywide.
“We’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do,” Cigna spokesman Mark Slitt said in an email to Disability Scoop. “The term ‘mental retardation’ is outdated and it’s also hurtful.”
Slitt said Cigna has already begun the process of revising its health plan documentation but indicated that the company will need to take some legal and regulatory steps in order to use the updated documents.
“This will take some time, but we’re committed to making the changes,” Slitt said.