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Lady Petitions Well being Insurer After Firm Approves — Then Rejects — Her Infusions


When KFF Well being Information revealed an article in August concerning the “prior authorization hell” Sally Nix mentioned she went by to safe approval from her insurance coverage firm for the costly month-to-month infusions she wants, we thought her story had a contented ending.

That’s as a result of, after KFF Well being Information despatched inquiries to Nix’s insurance coverage firm, Blue Cross Blue Defend of Illinois, it retroactively accredited $36,000 value of remedies she thought she owed. Even higher, she additionally realized she would qualify for the infusions transferring ahead.

Excellent news throughout — besides it didn’t final for lengthy. In any case, that is the U.S. well being care system, the place even sufferers with good insurance coverage aren’t assured inexpensive care.

To recap: For greater than a decade, Nix has suffered from autoimmune ailments, continual ache, and fatigue, in addition to a situation referred to as trigeminal neuralgia, which is marked by bouts of electrical shock-like ache that’s so intense it’s generally often called the “suicide illness.”

“It’s a ache that sends me to my knees,” Nix mentioned in October. “My whole household’s life is managed by the betrayal of my physique. We haven’t lived usually in 10 years.”

Late in 2022, Nix began receiving intravenous immunoglobulin infusions to deal with her ailments. She began strolling two miles a day together with her service canine. She may image herself celebrating, free from ache, at her daughter’s summer time 2024 marriage ceremony.

“I used to be so hopeful,” she mentioned.

However just a few months after beginning these infusions, she discovered that her insurance coverage firm wouldn’t cowl their value anymore. That’s when she began “elevating Cain about it” on Instagram and Fb.

You most likely know somebody like Sally Nix — somebody with a continual or life-threatening sickness whose physician says they want a drug, process, or scan, and whose insurance coverage firm has replied: No.

Prior authorization was conceived a long time in the past to rein in well being care prices by eliminating duplicative and ineffective remedy. Not solely does overtreatment waste billions of {dollars} yearly, however docs acknowledge it additionally doubtlessly harms sufferers.

Nevertheless, critics fear that prior authorization has now develop into a manner for medical health insurance corporations to save cash, typically at the expense of sufferers’ lives. KFF Well being Information has heard from a whole bunch of individuals prior to now 12 months relating their prior authorization horror tales.

Once we first met Nix, she was battling her insurance coverage firm to regain authorization for her infusions. She’d been pressured to pause her remedies, unable to afford $13,000 out-of-pocket for every infusion.

Lastly, it appeared like months of her exhausting work had paid off. In July, Nix was informed by workers at each her physician’s workplace and her hospital that Blue Cross Blue Defend of Illinois would enable her to restart remedy. Her steadiness was marked “paid” and disappeared from the insurer’s on-line portal.

However the day after the KFF Well being Information story was revealed, Nix mentioned, she realized the message had modified. After restarting remedy, she obtained a letter from the insurer saying her diagnoses didn’t truly qualify her for the infusions. It felt like medical health insurance whiplash.

“They’re robbing me of my life,” she mentioned. “They’re robbing me of a lot, all due to revenue.”

Dave Van de Walle, a spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Defend of Illinois, mentioned the corporate wouldn’t focus on particular person sufferers’ instances.

“Prior authorization is usually a requirement for sure remedies,” Van de Walle mentioned in a written assertion, “and BCBSIL administers advantages in response to medical coverage and the employer’s profit.”

However Nix is a Southern lady of the “Metal Magnolia” selection. In different phrases, she’s not taking place with out a combat.

In September, she referred to as out her insurance coverage firm’s ways in a Change.org marketing campaign that has garnered greater than 21,000 signatures. She has additionally filed complaints in opposition to her insurance coverage firm with the U.S. Division of Well being and Human Companies, U.S. Division of Labor, Illinois Division of Insurance coverage, and Illinois lawyer normal.

Even so, Nix mentioned, she feels defeated.

Not solely is she nonetheless ready for prior authorization to restart her immunoglobulin infusions, however her insurance coverage firm lately required Nix to safe preapproval for an additional remedy — routine numbing injections she has obtained for almost 10 years to deal with the nerve ache attributable to trigeminal neuralgia.

“It’s reprehensible what they’re doing. However they’re not solely doing it to me,” mentioned Nix, who’s now reluctantly taking prescription opioids to ease her ache. “They’re doing it to different sufferers. And it’s bought to cease.”

Do you have got an expertise with prior authorization you’d prefer to share? Click on right here to inform your story.

KFF Well being Information is a nationwide newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about well being points and is likely one of the core working applications at KFF—an impartial supply of well being coverage analysis, polling, and journalism. Study extra about KFF.

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