|Ronald & Frances Flanagan|
For those of you who still believe that a system in which medical insurance comes from private, profit hungry corporations is one which we should stick with, read the story of Ronald Flanagan, a cancer patient who was denied life saving treatment over a two cent shortage in his monthly insurance payment.
It was an innocent enough mistake, according to Ronald's wife, Frances Flanagan.Two cents?? Really? That is how much the life of this man is worth to his insurance company? It is so obvious that Ceridian was just itching for a reason to discontinue Ronald Flanagan's insurance coverage. It is amazing to me that any person living in this country could possibly believe that private, for profit corporations are best suited to cover health care costs of any patient. It is quite obvious that these companies are more worried about the health of their bank accounts that the health of their customers.
"If I only had just hit the nine instead of the seven," Frances said.
When she was paying their monthly health insurance premium online in November, Frances swapped a 7 for a 9, leaving their $328.69 payment 2 cents short.
"And now we're just pulling teeth and trying to figure out what's the next step," Frances said.
Their insurance benefits administrator, Ceridian Cobra Services, based in St. Petersburg, Fla., promptly dropped the Flanagans for the 2-cent shortage.
The couple found out about losing their coverage at a doctor's appointment on Jan. 13 while they were at the Exempla Rock Creek Medical Center in Broomfield.
As Ron was getting prepped to have a bone biopsy, Frances was on the phone with Ceridian.
"The nurses were just getting ready to do the biopsy when my wife popped into the office and told them, 'Stop. We don't have any insurance,'" said Ron.
"And that's when they let me know that we no longer had insurance on account of the 2 cents, and they canceled us," said Frances. "Since then, I've been depressed. I haven't been able to hardly do anything. As you can see, we still have our Christmas decorations up. So it's been hard on me."
Ron has been fighting cancer since September 2008. He has multiple myeloma -- cancer in the bone marrow. Doctors at St. Luke's have performed stem cell transplant surgery twice. He needs another transplant before the end of February, and they have a donor. But because of the 2-cent mistake, Ceridian Cobra Services will not pay for the procedure.
In a statement, Ceridian Cobra Services told 7NEWS, "We did not receive a full and timely payment and (Mrs. Flanagan) was provided several notices of the shortage and a grace period reminder notice on the last invoice, along with extended grace dates as provided for under COBRA regulations."
The statement goes on to say, "Since the payment was not full, it fit into the definition in the regulations of an 'insufficient payment' ... Ceridian understands nothing is more important than one’s health ... Unfortunately, we simply do not have the capacity to be able to personally call continuants and remind them of the status of their COBRA benefits."
Ron Flanagan believes Ceridian does not value human health, but rather, the bottom line.
Ron said they never received written notice that they could be dropped. The couple said they only received a billing statement in December that showed the two-cent shortage, but it wasn't clear to them that it was past due, otherwise they would have just added two cents to their December payment -- which they paid in full, and which Ceridian promptly cashed.
"They never did a certified letter saying what could happen. They never made a phone call. As far as I'm concerned, they're looking for a way to drop you," he said. (Source)
Now, what I would like to know is this... when the Flanagan's paid the insurance premium for the next month, why was two cents of their payment not applied to the "past due" balance? Ceridian CASHED THEIR CHECK for December. So, why not consider the two cents PAID, and then let them know that their DECEMBER payment was short? Wouldn't they then have more time to pay off the extra two cents? Obviously the insurance company simply did not want to pay for Mr. Flanagan's costly procedures, and seized upon the two cent short fall as a way to terminate his policy.
Something needs to be done about these insurance companies. Patients need to be protected from this type of disgraceful treatment. I sincerely hope that someone intercedes on behalf of Mr. Flanagan and forces Ceridian to cover the necessary procedures. It is akin to murder to deny a man lifesaving treatment because of two lousy pennies!
People scream and cry about "socialized medicine" as if it will cause the downfall of civilization. They speak of long waits for treatment and inadequate health care. Yet people who live in countries who DO have state run medical systems are HAPPY with the service they receive, by and large. So what if we have to pay a few extra dollars in taxes each year. Aren't the lives of our fellow citizens worth it?
I wonder how these executives at big insurance companies would feel if one of they had a life threatening condition that they could not pay for? I almost feel like it would be a sort of poetic justice. Their job requires that they deny necessary treatments to individuals who could very well die from the lack of appropriate medical care. I wonder how quickly they would be crying out for medical insurance policy overhaul if their child, or their spouse was the one who was facing a deadly illness? Quick, fast and in a hurry I am quite sure.
Just as a side note: I almost did not want to cover this story simply because of the fact that much of the coverage focuses on this man's status as a Vietnam veteran. It bothers me that somehow a story becomes more important if it is related to a veteran, as if the fact that they served in the armed forces makes him a more important human being, worthy of greater concern that any other individual. But, I feel that this story is important to cover, as it exemplifies the serious problems in the current health care system in this country.
UPDATE: After Ronald Flanagan went public with his story, the public outcry caused Ceridian to promptly re-instate his insurance policy. He even received a phone call from the CEO of the insurance company, Stuart Harvey, apologizing for the incident. Of course, while this is wonderful news for Mr. Flanagan, this does nothing to alleviate the suffering of the thousands of people who experiences similar poor treatment from insurance companies and whose pleas for help fall on deaf ears.