Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Coventry Health Care Fights David

There is something even more valuable to civilization than wisdom and that is character.
                                                                                                                         ~ Henri Louis Mencken

What do I do when confronted with deceit and lies? I cry, then I laugh and then I consult with one of several “men of God” who have encouraged me to boldly tell my story.

Today I introduce you to another remarkable man, a friend, who in the eyes of many is a saint on earth. My relationship with Fr. James O’Brien, S.J. goes back forty-five years. There is no “loose association” here.

Fr. Jim, a Jesuit catholic priest, is a model for peace and justice to all he meets. He has enjoyed a variety of positions at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling WV since the mid-1950s. He is a social activist, a gentle giant of sorts, quietly inviting others to join him and make a difference.

It was early 1998, when a small group of Catholics met twice a month to study the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius at Wheeling Jesuit University facilitated by Fr. Jim. Tom and I would remain a key part of this group for over 7 years, learning how to apply key Jesuit principles to our lives.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola are a … program of meditations, prayers, considerations, and contemplative practices that help Catholic faith become more fully alive in the everyday life of contemporary people. ~Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, 2009

It was out of this relationship with Fr. Jim and our years practicing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola that I first “discerned” my role as an advocate for the mentally ill.

The year was 2000. Cambridge Massachusetts was the site of the 2000 Annual Depression Bipolar Support Alliance which Tom and I attended as a prerequisite to establishing the first DBSA support group in West Virginia. It was the city that would soon welcome our son as a Harvard Law School student.

In 2005 Carelink (Coventry Health Care Inc of Bethesda MD) denied my expert surgeon Dr. Bernard Costello’s request for medically necessary surgery. Having devoted five years in my community to supporting the mentally ill, I was known and supported by the community in Wheeling, WV, my home town. But it was approaching Father Jim O’Brien, S.J., always in prayer, that strengthened my Faith to persevere with my ministry to hold Coventry accountable for discrimination against a mentally ill person.

It was November 2005 when a memorable moment took place. Father Jim O’Brien had just read “the” letter from Carelink's former CEO Patrick Dowd that falsely accused me, a mentally ill person, of fraud. Father sadly remarked, “Penny, I have read much about the injustice in the health care system, but I have never seen anything as ruthless as this letter.”

Discrimination? Yes. Intentional? Yes. Did I understand the full implications of “the” letter on November 1, 2005? No. In time, others would condemn Coventry as Fr. Jim had. In early fall 2005. I was only beginning to understand the full scope of Carelink’s cruel ways.

Tuesday’s Tale

Cancer Patient Fought Coventry For Treatment

May 24, 2007

CITY, Mo. -- A cancer patient is fighting to receive treatment.

Leo Miller, 64, has multiple myeloma, which is a complex cancer of the blood. He said figuring out how to get the stem cell transplant his doctor said he needs has become difficult.

"It's pretty tough, I'll tell you," Miller told KMBC's Jim Flink. "I'm waiting for word from a judge about my transplant -- I'm in a danger zone, really."

Miller said he already has stem cells frozen from his first transplant for multiple myeloma. But his second transplant has been denied.

A similar situation happened to Julia Slaven, who also has multiple myeloma. I was told by a support that Slaven threatened to  picket  her insurance provider, Coventry Health Care. That same day, Slaven's appeal of her claim was accepted.

It appears that Slaven had the right idea: spotlight Coventry with a public demonstration and force the issue. It worked.

Unfortunately, Coventry did not, if appears, support Leo Miller.And jsut as unfortunately, it took twenty-two months of for Carelink to authorize my medically necessary surgery.

At what cost to our communities?

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