In a post at Brave New Films' blog about closing in on the insurance industry, I mentioned the case of Dawn Smith, a MoveOn member and CIGNA who suffers from a treatable brain tumor. She spent two years being denied treatment for her tumor, and has seen her premium costs rise consistently since being diagnosed, and then, CIGNA raised her medication a whopping 10,000%. Dawn wrote a letter to CIGNA's Chief Medical Officer asking how they could do this:
As you probably know, your company has denied me needed care for two years while I suffer from a debilitating but treatable brain tumor. I pay my $753.47 premiums. I follow the proper procedures. But CIGNA refuses to give me the care I need.
Instead, you keep increasing my prices. First my premiums rose by hundreds of dollars, and now my prescription costs are going up by more than 10,000%.
What makes you think you can treat sick people this way? When will you stop doing this to me and the thousands of people like me who are suffering? And if you solve this latest problem, how do I know you won't do this to me again next week--that you're actually changing your ways and not just trying to make your PR problem disappear?
Please answer these questions. I need to know, for the sake of my health and my life. Many others have signed this letter too, to support me and make sure I get answers.
MoveOn asked people to join Dawn in signing the letter, and over 100,000 did.
In the comments to the post asking people to co-sign Dawn Smith's letter, a representative from CIGNA responded in the comments:
CIGNA has spoken with Ms. Smith and successfully resolved the issue pertaining to this matter. We originally filled the prescription as prescribed by Ms. Smith's doctor.
CIGNA learned through a third party political organization that Ms. Smith's prescription mistakenly did not specify "brand name needed". We have been in contact with both Ms. Smith and her physician and have corrected the inaccuracy. Customer service and satisfaction is important to us, we remain committed to working with our customers and physicians to ensure they receive the highest level of service.
Without that third party political organization - MoveOn - raising the profile of Dawn's case, there is probably no chance CIGNA would have responded so swiftly. But there's more to do. CIGNA may have agreed to lower the drug costs, and allowed various tests to go forward, but she is not giving up the fight. She wants answers about why she was denied treatment for two years, and why she and so many others have to suffer because CIGNA wants to maximize their profits. Dawn talked about her story in this video, and how it's not unique, but sadly the norm for a rapacious insurance industry that happily takes premium cash but resists giving it out in health care costs.
You can help Dawn by adding your name to a statement of support for her that will be delivered to CIGNA CEO Edward Hanway.
Fighting the insurance industry is a game of inches, but a collection of voices can make a difference. With some help from Congress, we can move toward a system of health care that doesn't involve ganging up on the insurance industry to force them to do the right thing.