Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 19 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

UnitedHealth Sentencing MI Patients to Death

Read this. UnitedHealth, a medical insurance company based right here in my home state of Minnesota, I'm sorry to say, apparently thinks health insurance parity laws are merely suggestions rather than rules.  UnitedHealth is being sued in a massive class action suit for cutting off benefits for patients with mental illness or substance abuse. Benefits have been cut and appeals denied at the expense of and even resulting in the death of patients. According to a judge quoted in the article, when it came to covering behavioral health, UnitedHealth consistently demonstrated a pattern of putting dollars ahead of patient care. Are we shocked by this? I wish I wasn't.

We all know insurance companies are for-profit businesses, but it seems UnitedHealth is going the extra mile to make money (or at least not lose a dime) on the backs of their beneficiaries with mental illness. Haiden Huskamp, a Harvard Medical School economist quoted in the article highlighted that reality. He said, "A 2008 federal law requires insurers to treat mental health care the same way they treat physical health care. Insurers, though, can find strategies around it, such as not having enough people in-network to provide mental health care or making it hard to get the medications people need." So much for parity.

This is so scary and maddening. UnitedHealth is a huge company insuring 6.1 million people across the United States and in 130 other countries. And it's apparently company policy to cut off mental health benefits. The lawsuit alleges UnitedHealth, after initially covering an acute mental health crisis, routinely failed to provide coverage for any type of follow-up care. As the article notes, this would be like an insurer covering a diabetic emergency but then not covering insulin once the patient returned home. In more than one case, their careless disregard for one of their beneficiaries led to death. People died. People with mental illness died as a result of UnitedHealth cutting off their access to care.

I do hope justice is served for the patients and families UnitedHealth screwed. Perhaps if an example is made of one company, other insurers won't be so quick to look for the parity law loopholes. Of course, no matter the outcome of this case, the lives lost due to UnitedHealth's callousness can never be recompensed. It's sickening. I don't know how these insurance company executives sleep at night.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Straying into political commentary, something like Medicare for All would address this profit motive.