One of the worst abuses of private insurance companies is the practice of using spurious reasons to deny claims for medical treatments, which are often necessary for saving patients’ lives.
Kyler Van Nocker’s story shows that even 5-year-old kids are not exempt from this insurance company abuse. Van Nocker has neuroblastoma, which is a very rare form of childhood cancer that targets the nervous system and creates tumors throughout the body.
Due to successful treatment in 2007, Van Nocker’s cancer went into remission, giving him 12 months of pain-free life. Unfortunately, in Sept. 2008, the cancer returned, and Van Nocker was once again in need of treatment. Unfortunately, his health insurer, HealthAmerica, refused to pay for one form of treatment doctors believe could save his life (MIBG treatment) because they consider it “investigational/experimental” since it has yet to be approved by the FDA.
Yet in April 2008, the insurer approved cheaper treatment for Van Nocker that was also “experimental,” prompting Philadelphia Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky to ask, “So why, pray tell, is HealthAmerica playing the ‘experimental therapy’ card in the case of the MIBG treatment Kyler now needs? Gee, money couldn’t have anything to do with the decision, could it?”
Van Nocker’s parents are suing HealthAmerica, citing the fact that the company has apparently been dishonest about its criteria for the types of treatment it will cover and is denying payment for treatment in this case because of the high cost of the procedure — $110,000 pays for only two rounds of MIBG treatment. “These companies have to be brought to the courthouse to get them to do the right thing,” says the VanNockers’s family attorney. “This child needs this treatment, or else.”
The sad truth is that Van Nocker is certainly not alone in having his claim denied by a major health insurer. The California Nurses Association (CNA), a nurses’ union and health care advocacy group, recently released a comprehensive study of claims denials across California. The study found that the six largest insurers in California rejected 47.7 million claims in the first half of 2009, nearly 22 percent of all claims submitted.
The United States is the only industrialized nation without cradle-to-the-grave, universal health care. In no other developed country would a child with cancer have to go without care because an insurance company decided it was not profitable enough to cover him.