Articles Posted in Health Insurance

In addition to dealing with short term disability benefits, long term disability benefits, and health insurance denials, many of our clients are also tasked with keeping track of changes to their Social Security benefits. Here are some of the changes that will take effect on January 1, 2020 for Social Security recipients –

  • Social Security recipients will get a 1.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in their monthly benefits starting in January. The average individual retired Social Security beneficiary is expected to see a monthly benefit jump from $1,479 to $1,503, an increase of roughly $24 per month or $288 for the year.
  • As a result of the COLA, the maximum monthly benefit a single recipient can get also will grow. That benefit will increase from $2,861 per month in 2019 to $3,011 per month in 2020.

In his October 28, 2109 Opinion piece published by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Ross Waetzman opened with this harrowing sentence, “I almost died because of insurance prior authorization rules.” His story went on to share the details of how he nearly died as a result of the decision made by his insurer, Independence Blue Cross (“IBC” or “IBX”), to deny authorization of benefits for a test that had been recommended by Mr. Waetzman’s cardiologist.

The test Mr. Waetzman’s cardiologist had recommended was a cardiac catheterization. The test was necessary because Mr. Waetzman’s history of chest pain had been increasing in intensity, despite lifestyle changes he had made in an attempt to curb his symptoms. The cardiac catheterization was recommended by Mr. Waetzman’s cardiologist after less-invasive tests had been performed. Those less invasive tests, an EKG and a coronary calcium test, revealed that Mr. Waetzman was in the top 10% for his age and race for calcium deposits on his coronary arteries. With such deposits known to result in reduced blood flow to the heart, the cardiac catheterization was recommended to determine if Mr. Waetzman’s chest pain was a result of a blocked artery.

Unfortunately, when Mr. Waetzman’s cardiologist, Dr. Kenneth Mendel, called IBX, he was informed that “prior-authorization” for the cardiac catheterization was denied. IBX claimed that Mr. Waetzman did not meet all the necessary criteria to have the test and his only available option was to appeal the denial.

As we continue to learn about efforts to challenge proton therapy denials by groups such as the Proton Therapy Law Coalition, the fundamental question becomes: Will the insurers actually get the message and change their ways? A recent article suggests that even when a jury awards a large punitive damages figure against a health insurer, the carrier is likely not truly getting the message.

In November 2018, an Oklahoma jury returned a $25.5 million verdict against Aetna for improperly denying coverage for proton beam therapy, a treatment the company considered experimental. In the largest verdict for bad faith in U.S. history, the jury found that Aetna “recklessly disregarded its duty to deal fairly and act in good faith” and awarded punitive damages. During the course of deliberations, the jury specifically discussed “sending a message” to Aetna and “making a statement” so Aetna would reevaluate how it handles appeals and requests for coverage.

However, many large insurance companies, if state allows them to, carry their own liability insurance for just this occasion. It appears that about 20 states do not allow insurers to carry such liability coverage. But insurers are now turning to products sold by offshore insurers beyond the reach of state regulators. In other words, a lot of insurers are not directly paying for the punitive damages awarded against them. This undermines the importance and impact of large jury verdicts on effectuating changed insurer practices.

Breast-Cancer-Awareness
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States.

  • In 2019, an estimated 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the U.S. as well as 62,930 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
  • Men also get breast cancer, but it is not very common. Less than 1% of breast cancers occur in men.

The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 (WHCRA) was signed into law on October 21, 1998.   The WHCRA provides protections for individuals who elect breast reconstruction after a mastectomy. The WHCRA covers women who undergo a mastectomy for any medical reason, not just to treat breast cancer.

Under WHCRA, if your group health plan covers mastectomies, the plan must provide coverage for certain services relating to the mastectomy. However, if your coverage is provided by a “church plan” or “governmental plan”, you will need to check with your plan administrator as certain plans may not be subject to this law.

WHRCA rights apply to individual coverage as well and are generally within the jurisdiction of the state insurance department where you live.

Attend our October 2 Webinar About Insurance Coverage

You have had or are considering explant surgery.  We understand the physical and emotional pains that made you decide on the procedure.  We also understand that thinking about insurance coverage should be the farthest thing from your mind.

We have spoken with so many women about their troubles getting insurance coverage for these explants, that we thought it may help to put together some ideas, facts and resources that may resolve at least one part of these ordeals.

The correct response is, “maybe, or maybe not, depending on the facts, and the state in which you reside.”

Insurance policies very often have time limits on the submission of a claim for benefits. In some states, those deadlines are VERY strictly construed, and once the deadline has passed, it does become “too late” to make a claim.

However, more than half of the states apply some form of an insurance rule called the “notice prejudice” doctrine.  Simply put, even if an insurance policy imposes a time limit for the submission of the claim, if certain rules are met, a claim can be submitted after the time limit if the late notice does not “prejudice” the insurance company’s ability to investigate the claim.  However, that is just a basic summary of the rule.  In the states that apply some form of the notice prejudice doctrine, its application differs from state to state.  In some states, the insured making the late claim must demonstrate a “good reason” for making a late claim.  In others, the burden falls on the insured to prove that no prejudice would be suffered by the insurance company because of the late claim submission.

On August 16, 2019 a nationwide class action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey against the medical device manufacturer Allergan to protect women with Allergan’s textured breast implants from the increased risk of breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), which has now been associated with Allergan’s BIOCELL textured breast implants. The case is Jane Doe I, et al. v. Allergan, Inc., et al., No. 2:19-cv-16784 (D.N.J.).

In July, The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requested that Allergan issue a recall of its BIOCELL textured breast implants and tissue expanders, and Allergan agreed and is removing these products from the global market.

The FDA requested that Allergan recall all of its BIOCELL textured breast implants and tissue expanders based on newly submitted Medical Device Reports (MDRs) reporting worldwide cases of BIA-ALCL and BIA-ALCL-related deaths associated with these implants. The FDA’s “analysis was attributed to a new worldwide reported total of 573 unique BIA-ALCL cases including 33 patient deaths. Of the 573 cases of BIA-ALCL, 481 are reported to have Allergan breast implants at the time of diagnosis. In addition, 12 of 13 deaths occurring in patients with BIA-ALCL where the manufacturer was known occurred in patients implanted with an Allergan breast implant at the time of their BIA-ALCL diagnosis. The manufacturer and/or texture is unknown for the remaining 20 reported deaths from BIA-ALCL.”

When you become ill with what may turn out to be a disabling condition, you are not likely thinking about whether the things you say to your physician might impact a short or long term disability claim, but you should be. Unfortunately, insurance companies use comments by claimants and their physicians found in the claimant’s medical records to discredit their claims. They can also be used to apply provisions in the policy that limit the duration of benefits. In some cases, depending on the medical facility where you treat, even your email and telephonic communications are recorded and placed in your medical records. These can be extremely detrimental to your disability claim.

Here are some examples from real claims: A man went to his physician and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. His symptoms were already pretty advanced and his doctor determined he should stop working. We helped him make a claim for disability benefits. One of the symptoms of PD is depression. Our client had mentioned to his neurologist on many occasions that he was suddenly feeling very depressed. Even though his physician attributed his depression to his PD and even though he had never before had depression, his LTD carrier tried to apply the policy’s mental/nervous limitation which would have limited his benefits to only 24 months, claiming he was disabled by depression, not PD.

In another case, a client who was already receiving long term disability benefits whose claim had been terminated came to our firm for assistance. We told him he would need assistance from his physician for his appeal of the denial. We explained the points the doctor’s letter would need to address and the client listed those points in an email to his physician. Because the client treats at Kaiser Permanente, that email was included in his medical records. When his insurer requested copied of his medical records, his insurer was able to obtain communications between the client and his attorney all because he sent an email to his doctor asking for help.

It’s a common story shared by an increasing number of women. They received breast implants and after a period of time they started getting sick.  While we do not know the exact number, we know that the largest Facebook Group has grown to nearly 83,400 members, with an increase of more than 5,200 in the last 30 days.

A client, whose name is being kept anonymous to protect her privacy, contacted Kantor & Kantor recently for help with an insurance denial. The woman was in failing health and had been experiencing severe medical complications dating back to 2012 after receiving breast implants. The woman referred to her condition as “breast implant illness.”

After consulting with her primary care physician, the woman underwent a bilateral breast MRI which revealed findings consistent with intracapsular rupture in the left breast. Shortly after, she was referred to a plastic surgeon who recommended bilateral breast capsulectomy and implant removal. The procedure, referred to as explant surgery, involves the removal of the implants and the surrounding capsules (or scar tissue).

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