The Other Side of the Health-Care Debate Strikes Back

The other side of the health-care debate (think opposite of Fox News' town hall criers) has come out swinging of late.

California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee just issued a statement with the provocative title, "California's Real Death Panels: Insurers Deny 21% of Claims." The CNA/NNOC has compiled data that shows one in five requests for medical claims for insured patients, even when recommended by a patient's physician, are rejected by California's largest private insurers, "amounting to very real death panels in practice daily in the nation's biggest state."

Cypress-based PacifiCare denied 40 percent of the claims it received the first half of this year, and Irvine-based Cigna shot down 33 percent during those six months, the CNA/NNOC claims.

Among the cases rejected are some heartbreakers out of Orange County. PacifiCare denied bone cancer treatment to Nick Colombo, a 17-year-old from Placentia, only reversing its decision after the boy's parents, friends and CNA/NNOC loudly complained. Unfortunately, the reversal came too late and Colombo died. "This was his last effort," said Nick's older brother Ricky Colombo, "and the procedure had worked before with people in Nick's situation."

Six days before Dana Point nurse Kim Kutcher was scheduled to have back surgery, Blue Cross denied authorization, deeming the treatment "investigational" even though the lumbar artificial disc she was to receive had received Food and Drug Administration approval. Kutcher, who had already seen four physicians, donated a unit of blood and gone through pre-op testing leading up to the procedure, paid $60,000 out of pocket for the operation and is still fighting Blue Cross California, which has denied 28 percent of its claims so far this year.

"With all the dishonest claims made by some politicians about alleged 'death panels' in proposed national legislation, the reality for patients today is a daily, cold-hearted rejection of desperately needed medical care by the nation's biggest and wealthiest insurance companies simply because they don't want to pay for it," said registered nurse Deborah Burger, who is co-president of CNA/NNOC.

Don DeMoro, director of CNA/NNOC's research arm, will present the data at Tuesday's Institute for Health and Socio-Economic Policy biennial convention in San Francisco, where nurses and doctors from Canada, Australia and Great Britain are scheduled to give presentations aimed at exploding the myths about their respective national health-care systems.

Also seeking to dispell those myths is Health Care for America Now!, whose website lays out a plethora of ways they aim to have a public option included in reform, including loud and showy public rallies. Sadly, none are planned in Orange County soon, but activists are being sent to this evening's 6:30 town hall hosted by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Oceanside) at Rancho Buena Vista High School in Vista as well as a candlelight vigil that begins at 7 p.m. in front of the Palm Springs office of Republican Rep. Mary Bono-Mack. The group has also organized "Let's Get It Done" health-care rallies at 5 p.m. Thursday at Los Angeles State Park Cornfield and City Park at 3rd and Broadway in San Diego.

As the video at the top of this post shows, more than 300 locals turned out Monday to march petitions to the Fashion Island office of Rep. John Campbell (R-Newport Beach) demanding that he hold a town hall meeting on health-care reform that includes a public option. Organizers claim they delivered more than 150 personal handwritten letters and 4,000 signatures on petitions to Campbell's office--and were told by the congressman's assistant Gussie Fields that Campbell was away "meeting with the public." 


Er . . . um . . . Alan Boinus of a group called Free Enterprise Advocates wasn't buying Fields' explanation.

"Who is John Campbell fooling?" Boinus asked. "On the day when more people turned out to his office than any typical staged town-hall meeting, Campbell chose to stay away from residents of his district about something as important as health reform. What could have been more important than meeting with us?" 

"Campbell chooses to be the imperial congressperson by holing up in a fortress paid by the taxpayer," added Valerie Bloomquist of Organizing for America. "Is there any good reason why he isn't holding a town-hall meeting? I don't think so."

Various peacenik, labor union and Democratic party groups from Orange County were also represented at the march. Let's hope no one threw out a lumbar disc lugging those signs.


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