It’s been a lont time since the last post here. I’ve been kind of weighed down with my grad school assignments and work (It’s all Dr. Joseph Key’s fault!). I’m also having some problems with my “tech guy” and his busy schedule right now, so the new and improved blog hasn’t happened yet…
For awhile there, I thought I might give up on this, then Laura sent me a link that reminded me why I’m doing this again.
The Arellaneses, both retired AT&T workers and members of the Communications Workers of America union, considered the pitiful payment only the latest indignity in a long battle with United Healthcare. It started with a horseback riding accident on June 13, 2004, when Kelly Arellanes, now 50, fell out of her saddle and hit her head on a rock, severely injuring her brain. She was airlifted from the campground where the accident happened to a hospital in Fort Smith, Ark.
David recalls the doctor telling him they could do surgery to remove part of Kelly’s skull, a risky operation she might not survive. Otherwise, she would die within an hour. “Honestly, I said a quick prayer, and in my head I heard these words: do it.”
The doctor turned around without saying a word. David said he recalled taking his health insurance card out of his wallet and calling the 800 number on his cell phone to report what had happened to his insurer. But weeks later, after Kelly had come out of her coma unable to walk, talk, or even remember her family, David got a bill from the hospital for tens of thousands of dollars.
“The hospital said they hadn’t received any payment from United Healthcare yet,” said David. “That’s when the argument started.”
There were also two nearly-identical letters from the insurer. One said the company received word of Kelly’s inpatient admission on the 15th of June; the other said notification arrived on the 30th. David said he couldn’t make sense of the letters until he got on the phone with United.
“A representative over the phone said I didn’t report it within the guidelines. I said no, I reported it on the 13th,” David said. A few days later, it occurred to him that he had a record of his call. He got back on the phone with United Healthcare. “I’m sitting here looking at my cell phone and I’m looking at the time I called you. If you’d like, I could mail you a copy of this phone bill. He said, ‘I don’t know if that’d be necessary.’”
David said United Healthcare then claimed that the hospital his wife had been taken to was “out of network.” He said the insurer agreed to pay for some parts of his wife’s treatment, but the bills piled up.
“There was no consistency in what they would pay and what they refused to pay.”
For instance, United covered $38,511.64 for Kelly’s second hospital room after she left intensive care, leaving the Arellaneses on the hook for $21,702.79.
Heartbreaking. Sadly though, it’s the norm. Blanche Lincoln even acknowledged that much:
“Unfortunately, as Kelly told me herself, their story is often the rule, and not the exception,” said Sen. Lincoln in a statement. “That’s why it is important we enact common-sense reforms to change the way insurance companies do business that will make a real difference in the lives of Arkansans and all Americans.”
Really Blanche? So why are you fighting those reforms? That’s why I’m doing this, because until progressives are organized in Arkansas to hold our elected representatives’ feet to the fire, people like Blanche Lincoln will still cry their crocodile tears over these horrible tragedies and then vote against the interests of people like the Arellaneses the moment Blue Cross or Wal-Mart wave a big fat contribution at them. That’s why I’m doing this-that’s why progressives have got to get organized here-and I want to thank Laura so much for reminding me of that.