Haunted by the dirty work of managed care & that deadly piece of paper: “Denied”


“I know how managed care maims and kills patients”


I will never forget the snarly laughter of a “medical” reviewer two weeks ago as he denied medication to my patient that the same PPO had been authorizing for years. My patient has been haunted by the man’s laughter since then. Denial of continuing medication is happening more and more despite California law that “grandfathers” in ongoing care for previously covered medication. See my post here.

It is “DESUETUDE.” It refers to the condition where a law has gone unenforced for so long that it is considered ‘obsolete.’ The law has not been repealed, but — here’s the clincher — the law has “collapsed into unenforcibility.” (quote from William M. Lamers, Jr, MD)

For years we have had spreadsheet medicine: Denial only for medication that is costly. It’s getting worse, more brazen.

Now that much new medication is unaffordable, priced far beyond the rate of a decade of inflation, what do we do with lawmakers that will not negotiate volume discount prices with pharmaceutical companies? How long will the middle class be able to afford common medication?  There isn’t another first world country on the planet that does not negotiate volume pricing.

Why are safe older pain medications being taken off the formulary?

Did you know that prices on best selling medicines may go up as much as 20 to 30% each year, though they’ve been on the market for years?

What is worse, managed care bloodlessly denies life saving procedures. A bloodless coup that rarely makes the news.

Physician Confesses to Congress, Choking Back Tears

Dr. Lynn DiPino [spelling?], former medical reviewer for Humana went before Congress to make “a public confession.”

This doctor, who acted as a reviewer for an insurance company, denied life saving surgery for a man and thus caused his death, saving “the company half a million dollars.”

Her decision to deny surgery insured her continued advancement in healthcare. “I went from making a few hundred dollars a week as a medical reviewer to an escalating six figure income as a physician executive.” “I was told repeatedly I was not denying care, I was simply denying payment. I know how managed care maims and kills patients. So I am here to tell you about the dirty work of managed care.”

As the video continues on the origins of managed care, it goes back to February 17, 1971, when Ehrlichman discusses Kaiser HMO with President Richard Nixon : “All the incentives are for less medical care because the less care they give, the more profit they make.”

Nixon smiles, his eyes narrow as if he is savoring fine wine, and says, “Not bad.”

Health Insurers Refuse to Limit Rescission of Coverage

withering criticism from Republican and Democratic Congress members

Today in Los Angeles Times

Even Republicans were appalled when “[e]xecutives of three of the nation’s largest health insurers told federal lawmakers in Washington on Tuesday that they would continue canceling medical coverage for some sick policyholders, despite withering criticism from Republican and Democratic members of Congress who decried the practice as unfair and abusive….

An investigation by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations showed that health insurers WellPoint Inc.[parent of Blue Cross of California], UnitedHealth Group and Assurant Inc. canceled the coverage of more than 20,000 people, allowing the companies to avoid paying more than $300 million in medical claims over a five-year period.

It also found that policyholders with breast cancer, lymphoma and more than 1,000 other conditions were targeted for rescission and that employees were praised in performance reviews for terminating the policies of customers with expensive illnesses.

…Rescission was largely hidden until three years ago, when The Times launched a series of stories disclosing that insurers routinely canceled the medical coverage of individual policyholders who required expensive medical care.

…A Texas nurse said she lost her coverage, after she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, for failing to disclose a visit to a dermatologist for acne.

The sister of an Illinois man who died of lymphoma said his policy was rescinded for the failure to report a possible aneurysm and gallstones that his physician noted in his chart but did not discuss with him.

The committee’s investigation found that WellPoint’s Blue Cross targeted individuals with more than 1,400 conditions, including breast cancer, lymphoma, pregnancy and high blood pressure. And the committee obtained documents that showed Blue Cross supervisors praised employees in performance reviews for rescinding policies.

One employee, for instance, received a perfect 5 for “exceptional performance” on an evaluation that noted the employee’s role in dropping thousands of policyholders and avoiding nearly $10 million worth of medical care.

…Late in the hearing, Stupak, the committee chairman, put the executives on the spot. Stupak asked each of them whether he would at least commit his company to immediately stop rescissions except where they could show “intentional fraud.”

The answer from all three executives:


Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) said that a public insurance plan should be a part of any overhaul because it would force private companies to treat consumers fairly or risk losing them.

“This is precisely why we need a public option,” Dingell said.

…In November 2007, The Times reported that insurer Health Net Inc. paid bonuses to employees based in part on their involvement in rescinding policies. According to internal corporate documents disclosed through litigation, Health Net saved $35 million over six years by rescinding policies.

The disclosures in part led an arbitration judge to levy $9 million in damages against Health Net in a case involving the company’s rescission of the policy of a woman diagnosed with breast cancer.

At the time, Blue Cross told The Times that it did not link employee performance reviews to rescission. Blue Cross also said at the time that it had conducted audits to ensure that claims reviewers were not given any “carrots” for canceling coverage.

The company reiterated that position Tuesday in spite of the committee’s disclosure of two employee performance evaluations from 2003 discussing rescission levels and savings.


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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

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