Friday, December 17, 2010


Tuesday’s Tirade

Note: I am publishing my December 21, 2010, blog a little early. It’s time to begin preparation to celebrate the coming of Christ in Christmas. It will be the first time in five long years that both my husband and I will be home…in body, mind, and spirit. We have much for which to be grateful.

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." ~Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assuage was released from jail yesterday on bond. In an interview, Assuage softly told the press that the isolation he experienced in jail has resulted in increased dedication to exposing truth. He hints that the obstruction of justice, which he recently experienced, goes ultimately to the White House.

Until suffering through my own fight for justice, my own victimization and isolation, I would never have considered that Julia Assuage might just be a hero.

Today I invite Coventry attorneys Robin Aronberg and Grant Shuman, whose law firm Spillman, Thomas and Battle, PLLC, represents Defendants Carelink Health Plans Inc and former Carelink CEO Patrick Dowd in a civil lawsuit soon to be heard in the First District Court of WV, to listen carefully to what I have to say.

I invite them to walk in my shoes.

I suggest Mr. Dowd also ponder what I am about to say before he takes the stand in his defense.

There is evidence that Patrick Dowd attempted to wrongfully terminate my health insurance coverage on November 1, 2005. To terminate a consumer by law, Dowd had to accuse me of fraud. The letter accusing me of misrepresenting myself as Dena Wildman, WV State Insurance Examiner, on November 1, 2005, was the beginning of the end for Carelink as they operate today.

Who really knows what drove Dowd to connive so ruthlessly to defeat a mentally ill person?

What I do know is that once Carelink denied my medically necessary surgery in May 2005 (Finally, after 22 months of suffering, Carelink authorized my benefit), I had no choice but to pursue all rights afforded me under law. Both Dr. Shelley MeQuone, of West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh and Dr. Bernard Costello of the University of Pittsburgh, my surgeons, advised me that I had a very serious health problem that could result in a heart attack or stroke. I personally heard a death sentence were I not to act immediately.

Dr. Costello asked for my assistance as he understood it may be difficult to receive the benefit from Carleink even though their sister company had frequently authorized the surgery in Pittsburgh. Hmm.

It took several months before I understood that Carelink was playing games with my health. I had no intention of contacting Robyn Aronberg, at Coventry Legal in Bethesda MD in late summer 2005. A customer service representative told me that I must first speak with Coventry Legal to process my request for a copy of my records. I was only following instructions.

Why was I told to go to legal? With a lot of suspicion I spoke with a Coventry attorney at the Bethesda office and I asked if the reason Legal had to release the records was for Coventry to have an opporutnity to edit them. That attorney was honest and told me that's the procedure. However, among Aronberg's first words in an e-mail to me, "We do not edit customer records." Hmmm.

And Robyn Aronberg understood that I was only following CSO's insturctions. She also knew that I had experienced major problems in my pursuit of my benefits. More and more games. Only this matter is too serious for games.

While Aronberg's e-mails reminded my constantly that I could return to dealing with Carelink Customer Service, speaking directly with legal was critical to my success. Or so I believed.

While Aronberg would always remind me in many, many e-mails that I had exhausted my rights with regard to my appeal, I believe Aronberg knew that Carelink botched the appeal and that I had never received a just appeals hearing. More games. More delays.

Carelink does play too many games. Period. Unfortunately, like Julia Assuage, I am angry. I am angry because so many other people, like my 87-year old friend Nancy Tsien, about whom I wrote in an earlier blog, are at risk. You or a loved one may also be at risk when dealing with for-profit health insurance companies.

I was so angry with all the games that I entered the fray early on. I played games, too, asking lots and lots of questions that when answered frequently revealed lies as employees gave conflicting answers. There was no way that once I was given permission to speak with Coventry Legal I would let go of this unbelievable opportunity to gain deeper access to the reality of the game.

Today, December 17, 2010, in a season of love, let’s assume that it is Robyn Aronberg’s husband who is placed in my position and must walk in my shoes. Let’s assume that it is Grant Shuman’s father, who develops severe sleep apnea, and must walk in my shoes. If you live in West Virginia, a state with one of the highest rates of obesity, a cause of severe sleep apnea, you would be out of luck if your health insurance carrier were Carelink.

Would not Grant Schumann use all his skills and knowledge to fight for his dad’s life? I am told they are very close friends. Would Aronberg not do everything possible even to the point of becoming obsessive and bothersome to do everything within her rights? If either of these people answer, “No,” they would be lying.

Surely, even Mr. Dowd is loved by someone?

Tuesday’s Tale
My Unsent Letter to the former Governor Joseph Manchin, today US Senator Joseph Manchin

September 16, 2008

Dear Governor Manchin,

Tuesday’s Tirades and Tales is my blog about the corruption in our health care system in West Virginia. I have been investigating Carelink Health Plans, Inc. of West Virginia for three years. They would not be in business today if your administration were doing right for the citizens of West Virginia.

Please carefully read my blog located at I hope you will be shocked by what you read, but, somehow, I am afraid that you will not be surprised.

And I am saddened for I believed you offered so much hope to West Virginia when you took office on January 17, 2005. Also, I am discouraged that the many young people who look upon you as their hero may become disheartened. Your administration has let them down.

While I have been very much alone in my fight against injustice, it’s been the Catholic clergy and my doctors who called me to persevere. They know my story and they know the significance of the systemic evil in health care in West Virginia. What they did not know until I began my journey is the names of so many “Christians” who are part of the problem. When one chooses to do nothing, one is part of the problem.

Accountability is everyone’s mandate.

What am I hoping to accomplish with this letter? A miracle.

Admission of wrongdoing and a willingness to clean up our state. Yes, I may be naïve as you are a powerful politician, but I cannot believe that you personally knew of the horror stories of people who did not receive their rightful benefits from Carelink and their parent company, Coventry Health Care, Inc. of Bethesda, MD. While pride and greed injure one's conscience, I believe in redemption.

I have a few questions:

1. What was your relationship with former Carelink CEO Ted Cheatham prior to your naming him Director of WV PEIA on September 22, 2006? What did you think when Coventry Health Care, Inc., the parent company of Carelink, was awarded a lucrative contract by PEIA within months Carelink's former CEO's appointment? Were you concerned at all at the appearance of impropriety knowing Coventry was the highest of three bids and the award went out-of-state?

2. With all the fine candidates for Chairman of the West Virginia Public Service Commission, why appoint an attorney on August 15, 2007, who had represented the utilities prior to this posting? These are very same utilities that Chairman Michael A. Albert is now called to regulate and do so independently.

3. Will you recognize a troubling pattern here, a little like eyes closed and mouths shut? My blog describes the continued injustice by the West Virginia Insurance Commission in regulation of insurance companies in West Virginia and the West Virginia Human Rights Commission operating in the same way.

4. In 2007, why did you replace Mr. Frank Hartman, Director of the West Virginia Office of Advocacy, with a person outside the agency when you had a candidate desiring the position who had four years experience within the Office of Consumer Advocacy? And I am told you asked the more experienced candidate, during his interview, to define his role in government. His response was immediate: “I would help pass laws more supportive of West Virginia citizens. It’s a little too unbalanced presently.” I am told that your response was just as immediate: “We cannot do that. At least not this year.” I may be wrong, Governor Manchin, but it is appearances again. It appears that you did not want to change insurance laws during an election year. Am I right?

Know that my bizarre tale of intrigue will reach a wider audience in time. Tuesday’s Tirades and Tales blog has reached over nine hundred visitors in a little under three months. There’s my recent appointment to the Diocese of Wheeling Charleston Disabilities Advisory Council. And I am writing a book about these events of national interest entitled My Father’s Legacy: Voices for Justice.

I cannot sit still. People are dying needlessly. Somewhere out there is a man or woman with a conscience who will finally recognize the extent of the evil and the role they play. Somewhere there is a man or woman who will recognize that God forgives even the gravest of sins. I hope that someone will be you, Mr. Governor.

Please pray about your future role and do right for our poor state. You will have my continue prayers.

Christine O’Brien Stenger
Wheeling, West Virginia

"Never separate the life you live from the words you speak." ~Paul Wellstone

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