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Sick for Profit: Insurance Companies Systematically Deny Care to Ill Policy Holders while their CEOs Reap Benefits

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In a media statement released today by California NeCare, it was reported that as Congress breaks for recess and the health insurance industry prepares to blitz the American public with attack ads on health care reform, Brave New Films kicks off its new "Sick for Profit" online campaign. The first video contrasts the lavish lifestyle and extravagant earnings of United Health Group's (UHG) CEO with their policyholders, who suffer from severe medical conditions but have been denied proper medical care. According to Forbes magazine, United Health Group CEO Stephen Hemsley owns three-quarters of a billion dollars in UHG stock options, and his 2008 compensation was a whopping $3,241,042.00.

At the same time, UHG is unwilling to provide the care for its insured. UHG patient Holly Bailey suffers from idiopathic pseudoobstruction. Ms. Bailey's gastrointestinal system is unable to absorb nutrients from food. Despite having gone through a series of invasive procedures, baffled doctors determined that Ms. Bailey could only survive through the use of TNP, or total parenteral nutrition (intravenous feeding as her sole source of nutrition). However, UHG denied Ms. Bailey the TNP her body needed, citing that it was an unnecessary procedure. UHG refused to pay for the only form of treatment that could save Ms. Bailey's life, forcing her and her family to come up with the $6,000 cost. Only by taking out a loan on their home were Ms. Bailey's parents able to come up with the money to pay for the costs of treatment.

"They deemed [TNP] 'medically unnecessary' and that they were not going to pay for any of it. I tried to explain to them that if I do not have this, I will die, and still they refused." Holly Bailey, United Health Group Patient.

As the health care debate rages on, powerful insurance companies are spending millions of dollars to control the direction of the debate, obfuscate these issues.

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Lawrence J. Gist II is a dedicated pro bono attorney and counselor at law, adjunct professor of legal studies at Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles, CA, a member of the board of directors of the Institute of Indigenous Knowledges, and a veteran (more...)
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