Articles Tagged with insurance denials

Researchers at Stanford University recently made exciting and significant progress toward developing a possible diagnostic test for chronic fatigue syndrome, or ME/CFS. In a pilot study of 40 people, half healthy and half with ME/CFS, all of the patients with ME/CFS showed a potential biomarker, where the healthy individuals did not.  More details can be seen HERE

As sufferers of ME/CFS know, the struggle to obtain not only treatment, but mere confirmation of the existence of a real disease, can be overwhelming. While the new test itself is still viewed with significant skepticism due to the study’s small sample size, it could be the first step in finding a reliable, objective test to confirm the presence of this debilitating disease.

Disability insurance companies deny claims based on ME/CFS at an extraordinary rate; not because these claims are not righteous. Rather, without a medically accepted diagnostic test, insurers can dismiss your devastating limitations as mere “subjective reports.” Fortunately for consumers, insurers’ attempts to dismiss such claims can be fought, and won, with the right expertise.

Kate Weissman is willing to brave litigation with a $150 billion health insurance company to bring about change in our healthcare system. On March 26, 2019, Ms. Weissman filed a class action lawsuit to challenge what she alleges to be UnitedHealthcare’s unfair and deceptive policies and procedures for determining whether a prescribed treatment or medication is medically necessary (utilization review). Ms. Weissman alleges that UnitedHealthcare’s utilization review process is skewed toward the denial of coverage based upon inadequate internal medical policies placed in the hands of unqualified medical directors.  This alleged institutional pattern and practice of wrongful conduct results in the systematic denial of coverage for medically necessary proton beam radiation therapy (“PBT “) for UnitedHealthcare’s insured members suffering with cancer, while offering coverage for far less expensive, though far more harmful, conventional radiation treatment.

In October 2015, 30-year-old Ms. Weissman was diagnosed with stage IIB cervical cancer. After various treatments and a relentless battle for her life, her doctors from Massachusetts General Hospital recommended PBT to avoid grave damage to surrounding tissue and organs. On April 6, 2016, UnitedHealthcare denied coverage, contending that PBT is experimental or investigational or unproven. Ms. Weissman alleges that PBT is an established form of treatment that is widely accepted by physicians, government agencies and many insurers and other payers, including Medicare and Medicaid. UnitedHealthcare relied on its own internal policies, as interpreted and applied to Ms. Weissman’s case by UnitedHealthcare’s medical directors, in denying coverage for PBT.  UnitedHealthcare would only agree to cover the more conventional intensity-modulated radiation therapy, which is about half the cost of PBT.

Ms. Weissman, who volunteers with Cervivor to advocate for the cervical cancer community, recognizes that she was fortunate enough to have the $95,000.00 to pay for the proton beam treatment ordered by her doctors so that she would not have to settle for the more dangerous and damaging conventional treatment. She is now fighting for those who cannot afford that choice.

A recent analysis of 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health data indicated that as many as one in six U.S. children between the ages of 6 and 17 has a treatable mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety problems or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The analysis published in JAMA Pediatrics also found that nearly half of children with these disorders did not receive counseling or treatment from a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or clinical social worker.

Early diagnosis and treatment are very helpful for these children, but some families may have trouble accessing mental health care.

Problems accessing mental health care come in various forms. Some families may struggle to get the care their children need due to a shortage of child psychiatrists, psychologists, and behavior therapists. Other families may not have a mental health provider in the vicinity and may not be able to travel long distances to visit one. And for some families, their insurance company may not authorize the treatment and the family simply cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket for the care their child needs.

In a previous blog, we discussed the steps you need to take if you have a long term disability claim through a policy provided by your employer, before you hire an attorney. This blog will piggyback on that one, focusing on why the appeal itself is so important and more importantly why the quality of the evidence you submit during that appeal will make or break your claim.

Under the federal regulations that govern ERISA claims and the cases that have interpreted those regulations, your appeal is the only opportunity you will have to get evidence of your disability into your claim file. (There are a few exceptions to this general rule but for purposes of most cases, the appeal is it).

While you do have a right to litigate your claim once you have exhausted your administrative remedies under the plan, you do not have the right to testify, call witnesses or present new evidence to the judge. All the judge will see, if your claim goes that far, is the evidence that was submitted during your administrative appeal.  Thus, the type and quality of the evidence you submit during your appeal is crucial to a successful claim.

During an office visit with your doctor, she recommends you undergo a treatment you’ve never had before. You call your health insurance company, and a representative assures you the treatment is covered by your health insurance plan. Can you rely on what the representative says? Will the treatment be covered by your insurance?

Caution is Key

Be cautious when relying on what health insurance representatives tell you over the phone. The representative can give you general information about what services are covered by your health insurance, but she cannot guarantee that you have met all the requirements under the terms of your policy for the treatment to be covered for you.

Insurance is our safety net.

It’s our protection against the unthinkable. Our first line of defense when something goes wrong. Our safeguard for our health and our finances. Our security for our family and our homes. Our precaution against all the “what ifs.” Our surety in protection of our resources and access to healthcare and treatment.

On paper, health insurance sounds pretty anticipative and hopeful. It sounds like if an illness or tragedy were to strike, things would be okay in the end – because someone would be there to catch you. But the harsh reality seems to be a security net with many holes and many flaws. In the hands of insurance companies, so many people seem to be falling through the holes of the net, slipping through the worn out spaces, and some even missing the net completely as they fall.

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