Baldies' Blog began originally in the UK by a 26 year old journalist with a blood cancer on a mission to inform the world about bone marrow donation.

He has since died, and I took on the cause of making cancer care more transparent for everybody.

Cancer is a disease that will touch everybody through diagnosis or affiliation: 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed and 1 in 3 woman will hear those words, "You Have Cancer."

I invite you to read how I feel along my journey and
how I am continuing to live a full life alongside my Hodgkin's lymphoma, with me controlling my cancer, not my cancer controlling me.

I hope that "Baldies' Blog" will prepare you to handle whatever life sends you, but especially if it's the message, "You Have Cancer."

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

INSURANCE PINK SLIP: How Good Patients Go Broke

I’m awake at 3 am in the morning.

I am under stress.

I am scared.

Believe it or not, it’s not my cancer flare-up that is keeping me up at night worrying.

It is not the growing tumor that has arisen in my neck, the week of terrible news, or the emergent incisional biopsy I am likely to undergo on Thursday.

No, I am thinking about the future, my family’s financial future, and seeing a bleak picture for myself and especially my family.

I have finally reached a point, after months of feeling like my hands are tied, trying everything in my power to maintain my long term disability income, that I have given up.

I can’t fight cancer and fight for my basic needs, my monthly income that pays for food, gas, and the car, anymore.

I am just too sick.

I want al my energy to fight my disease and enjoy my time.

I kept trying and thinking if I just tried hard enough everything would be okay, because what is being done is so fundamentally and morally incomprehensible that it could not be happening to me, a decent person, or to my family, who has done everything we can to contribute despite our numerous problems.

I’m scared of my cancer, yes, but I am most afraid that as I fall more ill, my family and I will fall into greater financial ruin.

I worry the stress will inhibit my healing.

It is all ready robbing me of my sleep. It has all ready been the cause of many tears of devastation and bouts of anger that seemingly hits a wall.

I’m scared the extra burden will ruin my relationship with my husband (couples most commonly fight about money and it’s a nightmare just imagining our bills).

Here is why:

In May I received yet another letter requesting evidence from all doctor’s participating in my care that I am still disabled and qualified to receive my monthly income from Reliance Standard Disability Company.

I was told if evidence was not received I would not get my June monthly payment, which I have depended on for the last 3 years.

I rolled my eyes and contacted my providers as I so often have to do to submit whatever the company is requesting.

My Nurse Practitioner at Dana Farber called my personal agent directly, left a message, and faxed my reports.

In June, I never received my check.

Instead I received a letter stating Dr. Gautier, a specialist I haven’t seen in a year, had not provided his information so I would not be receiving payment.

Dr. Gautier did not submit any medical records because he is not my medical provider. My medical provider had called in May, and I had not pursued the issue thinking it was taken care of as it usually is (this isn’t the first time) with a personal phone call from my nurse practitioner.

It was not.

In June, I called and was told that my providers at Dana Farber had not made contact and remitted the health information necessary to make a decision regarding my award.

Again, my nurse practitioner called and left a message with my personal steward at the company. When the call was NOT promptly returned, she called again (I love Melissa).

Again, this woman did not return her phone calls or confirm receipt.

Again, I have not received payment for July.

I feel my attempts at providing them my health information are being ignored so the company will not be obligated to pay.

The have not paid in two months.

Last month, Instead of a check, I have received a letter notifying me that I need to submit my social security award amount for my son, since this number is “income” and needs to be deducted from what I receive.

WHAT???!!!!!

Now, this is a huge blow beyond being in the poor house from two months without my relied upon income.

I have been receiving these payments for 3 years now. Suddenly, after three years, my case manager at Reliance Standard is not only ignoring my phone calls but more importantly, ignoring the phone calls of my medical providers wishing to directly provide evidence of my qualifications and their faxes of my medical records, my protected healthcare information, and holding my check.




How am I supposed to fight for income and fight cancer?

I can’t do both.

I have been laid off. I’m getting the moral equivalent of a pink slip FROM MY DISABILITY INSURANCE COMPANY!

But the situation gets worse, the insurance company has found a way to rid itself of a bad investment, a “purchase” that is severely underperforming, has never achieved the projected “return on investment” and is drastically reducing their profits or has reduced profits for years now.

That bad investment is me.

Reliance Standard couldn’t just force me to suffer the indignity of losing the little income I bring into the house, which hasn’t been adjusted for inflation in the past four years and is really more like 30%, instead of 60%, of what I once received.

I couldn’t go quietly into the night, hurting, with my tail between my legs, wondering how my family will be provided for when my health expenses are all ready such a huge burden.

No, they have to kick me when I am down, try to bleed a rock, and state that since I have been receiving social security for X, I have actually been overpaid $566 a month since October 2006.

Apparently, ignorance is not an excuse, and they are ready to collect on what I am told I must return to them in overpayment: $18,678.

That is $566 overpayment since October 2006.

This is also more than I receive in a year from social security.

According to financial experts, if a person owes more than their annual income in debt that person is bankrupt. They will never be able to dig their way out and meet their basic needs.

“RELIANCE INSURANCE,” which was devised to protect me in illness, to save me from the stress of worrying how my family will eat should I become ill is single handedly bankrupting me.

The irony of this is horrifying.

It’s difficult for me to wrap my head around the concept of something as morally incomprehensible as notifying a twenty-six year old woman who has suffered for years of a verifiable disability that due to some newfound loophole or policy clause that neither the company nor the patient was aware of the company is now not only stopping monthly payments, but requesting the repayment of years worth of income.

Of course, since this is my life, these problems began and I very suddenly subsequently suffered a severe relapse.

Stress is certainly a contributing factor to illness.

I won’t say this situation has worsened my prognosis, but it certainly hasn’t helped. It has impaired my ability to heal. It’s now 4 am, and I am still awake, unable to sleep, worried.

And, since you all have been wondering, I am now scheduled for a needle guided biopsy at Brigham and Woman’s Hospital on Friday at 8:30am.

I will receive the results next Thursday at my previously scheduled appointment.

I’m heading to Natick tonight to get some sister time with my twin and a place to sleep.

10 comments:

linda keenan said...

hillary - i finally fixed my google so i can comment. this insurance post should get a bigger readership. let me know if you want me to repost in the huffington post.

Anonymous said...

My vote is YES get it to the Huffington Post and have you ever contacted Oprah about your story? Seems like you are just the kind of person that they like to do shows on. Then, when I watch you on the show, I can say..."I knew her when...."!!!

Hugs!
Alanna

Susan said...

I pray that the insurance companies will stop kicking patients when they are down! I really feel that this needs to get more publicity on a national level. How about contacting Good Morning America and the Today show. They seem to like these kind of stories and can "out" what the insurance company is doing!

You're in my thoughts & prayers.

Christine said...

This completely blows my mind, but doesn't surprise me. Sickening.

Anonymous said...

You may consider immediately contacting your state representative, since you already seem to have a contact there, informing them, and seeing what recourse you may have there. Let others go after these guys for you. Maybe you can embarass them into taking care of this. Good luck, Hillary. Marleigh

Erica said...

Hi Hillary. Insurance companies will do whatever they have to so they don't have to pay you. It happened to me too. I agree with everyone else, you should definitely take this to a big media outlet.

Anonymous said...

Wow! That is so wrong! And the worst part is you are a nurse. You took care of people in their time of need and this the thanks you get. It's so wrong. It's sick.
Wendy

Natalia said...

I so understand you, Hillary! Same thing happened to me and I am still repaying back the "overpayment" :(
Apparently, such negative math-- subtracting ALL SSD income, including your son's -- is somewhere in the fine print of your LTD papers -- you can ask for the full copy -- mine is over 100 pages :( I wish you all the best as you try to sort this out. But above all, I wish you to be CANCER-FREE!

Sig said...

we have "7 on your side", it's a news show that exposes shit like this. can you do that? This is positively abhorable.

MasterShake13 said...

This is a very interesting post. As someone suffering from disabilities, I can't stress enough how important it is for those in my position to do as much research as possible on Disability Insurance. With all the horror stories out there, it's important to know just what you need and how to get it. Life doesn't stop throwing us curve-balls, but we have to learn how to hit them out of the park.