Every day it seems there is another story on the Web or in the newspaper about the horrible, money-hungry uncaring executives who control medical insurance companies and kill us (literally) with denials of medical care. The latest is a California family who blames Cigna for refusing to authorize a liver transplant for their daughter.
Seventeen-year old Nataline Sarkisyan was in a vegetative state with liver failure. She had had leukemia, then a bone marrow transplant and had liver damage, which is a known complication of the medications. The medical and ethical issues here are anything but clear.
Some would say a liver transplant is contra-indicated. Some would say it is futile. Others state that there is no evidence to support its use in this specific situation. If you saw the 1997 movie called The Rainmaker, Nataline’s case is nothing like that story.
The family of course wanted everything remotely possible done for their child. When Nataline died, they quite naturally wanted – emotionally needed – to blame someone and who better than the big, bad monster insurance company?
An insurance company does not exist to deliver care: its primary purpose is profit. Providing (paying for) care is how they spend money, not how they make money. When they save rather than spend, they are doing just what the System wants them to do. They are protecting YOU, or at least your money. I bet your pension plan holds stock in one or more insurance companies. If these companies lose or waste money, you lose. When they are profitable, you make money.
Nataline Sarkisyan’s specific problem was not an evil insurance empire. It is the reality that current treatments for leukemia have side effects and complications, including some fatal ones. The larger problem for all of us is the confusing, contradictory way that money flows in our healthcare system.
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