As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, September 14, 2009

CIGNA Denies Cancer Patient Care, CEO Makes $120 Million

(I am a blogger fellow with Brave New Films on their Sick For Profit campaign. Visit us on Facebook.)

Today Brave New Films released their second installment in the Sick For Profit series, taking a look at the corrupt practices of CIGNA, denying care to their customers while their lead executives rake in millions and lead lavish lifestyles.

Meet Jo Joshua Godfrey. She had cancer without knowing for over a year.

"I would go to CIGNA and they would tell me I had bronchitis and give me medicine and send me home. No matter what medicine they gave me I wouldn't get better. Then the CIGNA Director called me up and she told me that there was nothing wrong with me at all. I called the doctor, and I came with my film and my CAT scan and he just put it in, it took exactly thirty seconds. He told me, 'You have cancer,' and he said the reason CIGNA did not want to give you your records is they've known right way back for years that you have cancer and they're not going to treat you."

CIGNA took in $19.1 billion dollars in revenue last year, with a $292 million dollar income. That doesn't include the salaries given to people like CEO Ed Hanway. He made a cool $12 million last year, and over the past five years he took in $120 million. Hanway has $28 million in unexcercised stock options. The company corporate jets, also not seen in profit statements, cost $68 million. This money is gained, as former communications director Wendell Potter says in this video, through denying claims and dumping the sick, enhancing the value of the company for Wall Street investors. The effect on people's lives, meanwhile, is tragic. Nataline Sarkysian, featured in the Americans United For Change advertisement, lost her life after CIGNA repeated denied her a liver transplant, despite the family having full coverage.

Meet Stephen Coddington, the wife of Marian, a stroke victim:

The case manager at the nursing home called me in and was really upset, and she said, "CIGNA is wanting to discontinue therapy with her. The doctors called and appeals were denied." It has been a day-in and day-out fight. Every talk that I've had with them, it's been, how can we wiggle off this hook.

This is the human cost for an insurance company's existence, for the record profits and supreme lifestyle of their executives. Welcome to the American health insurance industry. Instead of helping policyholders attain the health security they need for their families, big insurance companies get rich by denying coverage to patients. Now they're sending lobbyists to Washington, DC to twist the arms of lawmakers to oppose reform of the status quo. Why? Because the status quo pays.

CIGNA is not a special case in the insurance industry. It's perfectly normal and expected for a corporation to maximize profits. The difference with insurance is that the profit comes at the expense of your health care, and frankly, all the regulations in the world won't substantively change that. The best way to fight back is through exposure, a juxtaposition of the human luxury paid for by human misery.

So help us shine this spotlight. CIGNA's advertising tagline is 'A Business of Caring.' We think they ought to come up with something more appropriate for their actual practices. If you come up with one, post it on our Facebook page. Here are some examples. We'll send the best over to CIGNA. In addition, Jo Joshua Godfrey will join SEIU Healthcare 775NW outside the CIGNA corporate offices in Seattle, Washington today as they demand quality and affordable health care for every American as a fundamental right and not a privilege. If you're near 600 4th Ave in Seattle around 12:30 PT today, head down and show your support.

And send this video to your friends. Everyone needs to know what's at stake in health care reform. This kind of denial of coverage can happen to anyone under the current system.

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