Social media provides needed kick in rump to insurers


Perhaps social media does have a bit more value than my curmudgeonly self would care to admit.

Last week I wrote about a friend who is battling leukemia. Beyond the difficulties associated with fighting a life-threatening condition, she had also been clashing with her insurers, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida (Florida Blue) and Prime Therapeutics, both of which had denied her coverage for needed cancer-treatment medication.

As a result, she’d gone more than a month without medicine.

It’s not as if my friend was attempting to secure reimbursement for experimental medicine or didn’t have sufficient coverage. Florida Blue was simply giving her the runaround, even though my friend’s prescription was on its list of approved medications.

Even with her medical team working to help her, the companies denied coverage, claiming, among other things, that they had not received the information.

Doctors, nurses and health care providers worked diligently to get the correct papers into the hands of my friend’s insurers for several weeks. Yet, a month later she was still without needed medicine and still without answers.

Taking a break from such earth-shattering revelations as smoking birds and personal issues with LinkedIn, I detailed the above in a Sept. 30 post.

Around the same time, another friend started a GoFundMe campaign to help raise money to buy a fax machine for Florida Blue. That was because the insurer had told my friend with leukemia that one of the reasons they hadn’t received her doctors’ requests for authorization because their “fax machine was busy.”

As was stated on the GoFundMe site: “I want to raise enough money to buy a cheap-ass fax machine for Florida Blue so they can help dying people get their treatments. I would also like to buy them a time machine so they could move boldly into the 1990s, but that’s another issue.”

Within a short while Twitter was aflutter with tweets about Florida Blue’s (and Prime Therapeutics’) shenanigans, as was Facebook, and before long a representative from Florida Blue, having noticed the publicity, decided to step in to handle the case.

Around the same time, an individual with Prime Therapeutics posted a comment on my blog expressing her desire to assist my friend.

By last Saturday, my friend had her medicine in hand.

This happened because people got the attention of Florida Blue and Prime Therapeutics through social media, and because there were individuals at both companies who were willing to make a special effort to help my friend cut through unnecessary red tape and get her medication.

My friend is not out of the woods, but she is fortunate to have many friends who are or were journalists. They understand how to use social media and publicity to get things done. However, it should never have required scores and scores of people, if not more, using social media to get Florida Blue to do the right thing.

All of which raises other questions:

  • What happens to the vast majority of the population that doesn’t have a slew of publicity savvy friends at their disposal?
  • Where do those who are older and may not have the strength to keep fighting turn when they’ve been denied needed medicine that they’re entitled to under the terms of their insurance?
  • How many have died because insurers essentially waited them out, understanding full well that some of the ailing wouldn’t have the strength, willpower or ability to fight for what they’re entitled to?

I’ll not get into the injustice of a young mother being stricken with leukemia. There are some situations in life that one simply cannot wrap one’s mind around.

But I will say that those who work in the health field, including health insurers, should do all within their power to make the lives of those they serve easier – rather than more difficult – when their customers find themselves facing life or death scenarios.

12 thoughts on “Social media provides needed kick in rump to insurers

  1. I work in the health field and we battle with insurance companies every single day. It is so awful, trying to get meds for our patients approved. And why is BC still using fax machines? It’s really ridiculous!!!! Thank-goodness your friend received her meds, but she should not have to battle like this.

  2. Fax machines still going strong in Costa Rica…..

    Here, when you don’t get an answer from your (generally) monoply service provider – electricity, phone, government department, etc. – you put your question on their Facebook page. The reply and usually the remedy comes promptly as they don’t mind stuffing you in their own offices but lose face if their shenanigans go public.

  3. I had asumed with Obamacare and other health service reforms that patients being denied treatment because of troubles with insurance companies was a thing of the past in the States? The Irish health service is regarded as fairly mediocre but I’ve never heard of anyone being denied the medication prescribed to them for reasons of cost. If you need it you get it (albeit with a bit of a delay). General taxation, supplemented by tightly regulated private insurance schemes through employers, etc, pays what needs to be paid for.

    • Obamacare is for those who don’t have private insurance. I believe the majority of US citizens still have insurance through their employers, as I do. You would think that private insurers would have stepped up their game, so to speak, with the specter of single-payer health care system gaining ground here in the U.S.

      Unfortunately, the issue is so polarized here and both sides put out so much propaganda that it’s impossible to tell which would ultimately serve people best in the United States. But examples such as the one above don’t make private insurers look good.

  4. More evidence that insurance companies need to be removed from the doctor-patient relationship by establishing a universal publicly sponsored funding system that covers everyone regardless of income, employment or health status. Insurance companies are like leeches – if you listen hard enough you can hear them sucking scarce health care dollars out of the health care system – dollars that should be going to direct patient care.

    • That’s what I don’t understand; there’s a significant push for a universal system, yet insurers are doing things like this which damage their reputations and that of private insurance. It seems as though their willing to kill the golden goose for temporary gain.

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