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Cigna Death Panel: Cigna Insurance wants Dawn Dead

CIGNA wants Woman Dead
Justin Ruben, September 18th, 2009

Dawn is a few years younger than me. She lives in Atlanta. She’s an aspiring playwright. And four years ago, she was diagnosed with a rare, but treatable brain tumor.

Dawn’s doctors are ready to treat the tumor, but they can’t. CIGNA, her insurer, refuses to pay for the care she needs because the only hospitals qualified to treat her are out-of-network. And after years of fighting, Dawn just received her final denial letter.

For me, the scariest thing about Dawn’s story is that it could happen to any of us — to a friend of mine, or someone in my family. After all, Dawn has insurance. But as long as private insurers are the only game in town, they’ll continue to have the power to deny Americans the care they need.

Dawn is fighting back. And while CIGNA may be able to ignore Dawn, they won’t be able to ignore millions of us standing together with her. I’m joining Dawn’s fight to shine a light on Big Insurance’s abusive tactics, get Dawn the care she needs, and make sure they don’t do this to anyone ever again. Will you join me by signing a statement of support?

Clicking here will add your name to a PETITION: Cigna Petition

The statement says, “I stand with Dawn Smith. CIGNA must provide the treatment she needs and stop rejecting legitimate care for all the others who are suffering.”

Unfortunately, Dawn’s story isn’t unique — she’s one of the millions of Americans who are suffering — but what she’s doing about her situation is. Instead of suffering in silence, she’s sharing her painful, powerful story so that, as she says, “no one else has to go through what I have.”

I’ve been really moved by Dawn’s strength, given everything she’s going through. She has terrible pain and sudden seizures that can knock her off her feet. She’s had to move back in with her mom so she can have constant care. But through all that, she’s kept her spirits up.

The heart-breaking part is that her condition is treatable. But CIGNA’s refusal to treat her has brought her to “the end of my rope,” as she puts it. CIGNA gladly accepts Dawn’s premium payments, but when she needed care, they refused to pay for it, coming up with new reasons as they went.

Dawn’s story is a symptom of a much bigger problem. But if we all rally behind her, we can help not just her, but everyone else who’s suffering under our broken system, too. Together, we have the power to make Dawn’s story different, and in the process, to remind Congress and the American people why we so desperately need health care reform.

FOLLOW Dawn's story here:

— Justin Ruben of MoveOn

Views: 123

Comment by Sue Copening on September 18, 2009 at 2:05pm
Comment by Sue Copening on September 18, 2009 at 2:11pm
Question... if your car didn't start 30% of the time, if you employer didn't pay you 30% of the time? What kind of "approval rating" would you give them?

From the above article... The labor leader attempted to alter the terms of the health care debate we've seen play out across the country throughout August by keeping the focus on the current practices of health insurance companies in a less regulated marketplace. He cited an average of 32% of denied insurance claims from three of the largest health care providers in California over the last 7 years as an example.

Read the whole story here:

Comment by Sue Copening on September 26, 2009 at 6:37pm
UPDATE as of 9/25/09

Last week, over 100,000 MoveOn members stood with Dawn Smith to demand that CIGNA cover the treatment for her brain tumor.

CIGNA had been denying Dawn's requests for two years, but when she went public, with the help of MoveOn members across the country, CIGNA reversed course. They took the first step toward resolving Dawn's case—agreeing to pay for the test she needs to determine her treatment plan. By reversing their denials, CIGNA made it clear that they didn't think their decision would stand up to public scrutiny.

But they didn't offer any explanation for all the previous denials. And they didn't guarantee that they'll approve the next step in Dawn's treatment. And for all we know, they're still doing this same thing to thousands of other people whose stories haven't caught national attention.

That's why Dawn is insisting that CIGNA explain the policies that led them to deny her care for so long. And—for herself and all the others who are suffering—she's demanding proof that they're changing those policies so this never happens again.

Dawn recorded a short message for MoveOn members. Can you watch the video and then add your voice to a statement of support?

Since Dawn went public, we've heard from hundreds of others who have been hurt by CIGNA. The stories range from simply frustrating to absolutely heartbreaking. If you or someone you know has been denied needed coverage by CIGNA, or by another insurance company, please share your story with us at:

All of these stories paint a picture of an insurance company that, as one former CIGNA executive pointed out, has every incentive to deny coverage.

In the case of Nataline Sarkisyan, CIGNA denied a liver transplant—reversing themselves only when public pressure became too intense. Unfortunately, their decision came too late for Nataline, who died.
Christopher Hanna told us the story of his wife's battle—she had to spend "hours every week browbeating [CIGNA] over the phone," fighting to get treated for the ovarian cancer that would eventually take her life.
And of the stories we heard, there were a stunning number where CIGNA authorized a procedure but then came up with an excuse—any excuse at all—to not pay.

It's clear that Dawn's experience with CIGNA isn't unique—in fact, it isn't even out of the ordinary. And even though CIGNA would love for Dawn to just go away, she isn't backing down. She's demanding answers and proof that CIGNA is changing their policies so that their mistreatment of her and their other customers comes to an end.

Will you watch Dawn's video and sign the statement of support?

Thanks for all you do.

–Justin, Ilyse, Kat, Daniel, Laura, and the rest of the team

P.S. If you have a story about CIGNA or another insurance company denying needed care to you or someone you know, please share it with us at:

P.P.S. To read more about Dawn's struggle, check out her blog at:

Comment by Sue Copening on September 29, 2009 at 7:05pm
(CNN) 45,000 American deaths associated with lack of insurance

A freelance cameraman's appendix ruptured and by the time he was admitted to surgery, it was too late. A self-employed mother of two is found dead in bed from undiagnosed heart disease. A 26-year-old aspiring fashion designer collapsed in her bathroom after feeling unusually fatigued for days.

Paul Hannum's family members say he probably would've gone to the hospital earlier if he had had health insurance.
1 of 2

What all three of these people have in common is that they experienced symptoms, but didn't seek care because they were uninsured and they worried about the hospital expense, according to their families. All three died.

Research released this week in the American Journal of Public Health estimates that 45,000 deaths per year in the United States are associated with the lack of health insurance. If a person is uninsured, "it means you're at mortal risk," said one of the authors, Dr. David Himmelstein, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

The researchers examined government health surveys from more than 9,000 people aged 17 to 64, taken from 1986-1994, and then followed up through 2000. They determined that the uninsured have a 40 percent higher risk of death than those with private health insurance as a result of being unable to obtain necessary medical care. The researchers then extrapolated the results to census data from 2005 and calculated there were 44,789 deaths associated with lack of health insurance. (CLICK FOR MORE)

Comment by Sue Copening on September 30, 2009 at 1:32am
Comment by Sue Copening on October 1, 2009 at 10:00am
Do Health Insurers Discriminate Against Women?
... viagra is often covered by insurance but birth control is not.
... eating disorders affect mostly women and are not fully covered.


“You have got to do something and quick...This child is extremely sick, and if you don't do something immediately, you're going to find her dead on the floor.”

Imagine that your doctor has just given you this news about your daughter.

Imagine now that you turn to your health insurer for help and you are turned away as your daughter fights for her life.

The Gomez family doesn't have to imagine this – for them it is reality. Their daughter Emily, 17, has suffered from eating disorders for the last three and a half years. First diagnosed with anorexia, Emily limited herself to 300 calories a day, often passing out in school as her body deteriorated. No longer able to hide her starvation methods she turned to bulimia, binging and purging on a regular basis.

The impact on Emily's body was substantial. After ending up in the hospital several times, doctors determined that she needed long term residential treatment – treatment with a hefty price tag, ranging from $750 - $1,000 a day. Despite the risks to her health and life, Emily's insurance company – Blue Cross Blue Shield – would not cover her care because under their policy eating disorders are considered mental illnesses and coverage is caped at $2,000. Emily's treatment at the first treatment center she visited cost $50,000.

Good Morning America spoke with Emily's insurance company this week and confirmed that her treatment was not covered by the company unless, that is, her eating disorder resulted in further health complications like a heart condition. So, in order to get any help Emily's condition would have to worsen, putting her life in further jeopardy.

There is so much wrong with this story, the worst being that Emily is not alone. More than 11 million people in the United States suffer from eating disorders and for many their treatment is not adequately covered by insurance. More often than not, the people who suffer most are young women. According to the Center for Mental Health Services, 90% of people suffering from eating disorders are women between the ages of 12 and 25.

To have health insurers exclude coverage for a type of disease that disproportionally effects women is completely unjust. Women are literally dying to be thin and left without the means to battle their disease once they've reached out for help. And men (although much less so) are victims too as they increasingly feel the pressure to be thin and have the “perfect body.”

The media's influence on our culture's obsession with thinness cannot be overlooked. From the glossy pages of magazines, to billboards on the street, and our television sets at home we are constantly bombarded with unrealistic expectations of beauty where one feature is always the same: a slender, lean body. The pressure to match this ideal is great, especially on young women, which can lead to eating disorders – one of the leading causes of death among young people according to the National Eating Disorders Association and yet insurers in most cases do little to cover treatment.

A new bill introduced into the House of Representative – the Federal Response to End Eating Disorders Act (FREED Act) – could change all this. If passed it would require insurers offering group health insurance to cover eating disorders specifically.

In the meantime, however, the battle continues for Emily and thousands more. After another stay at a residential treatment facility for $20,000 – a cost which her insurers denied to cover again despite her life-threatening condition – her family was forced to cash her college fund to pay for the treatment themselves. Her parent's are currently considering a lawsuit against their insurance company for negligence. Hopefully in the future other families can avoid such measures. Until then it is women like Emily who will continue to suffer.
Comment by Sue Copening on October 11, 2009 at 7:04pm
After you and hundreds of thousands of other MoveOn members stood with her, Dawn Smith decided to confront CIGNA's CEO in person. So on Thursday, Dawn set out from Atlanta for CIGNA's headquarters in Philadelphia.

In her four days on the road, Dawn has met with other Americans in venues big and small—telling her story in living rooms, coffee shops, and in front of a thousand-member congregation at church this morning. She's chronicling her journey on her blog:

Along the way, people have been sharing their own stories and giving Dawn messages of support, lending their voices to her struggle. In Charlotte, Tish wrote about the "insurance injustice" she's seen in her "37 years as a registered nurse." Susan wrote about her own struggle with brain cancer. And Stuart told Dawn how her bravery rates with that of his fellow soldiers.

It's been a remarkable journey, and it's just getting started. We'll have more details soon about what you can do to help Dawn be successful when she confronts CIGNA's CEO, H. Edward Hanway, to demand answers.

But today, we just encourage you to check out the blog that Dawn and her traveling companions have been keeping. It's full of powerful stories, heartbreaking videos, and beautiful photos of the messages of support that Dawn has collected on her journey. The blog is:

You can read the blog and leave Dawn a message of support. Then, please share it with your friends and family. We've already seen CIGNA's willingness to reverse course when their outrageous actions were made public, so it's important that as many people as possible know about Dawn's story.



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