Dana & Doug Christensen

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Fake Health Insurance Left Dana Widowed With $450K In Unpaid Bills

Playa del Rey, California

Get more information about junk insurance and S. 1955.

Dana Christensen is a victim of the type of junk health insurance policy President Bush is recommending for the nation. Although she and her husband Doug were insured, Dana was left with $450,000 in unpaid medical bills when her husband died of bone cancer.

Dana’s Bush-backed "association health plan" had no limit on out of pocket costs for patients, unlike traditional health insurance or HMOs. The Christensens’ plan covered only a small portion of chemotherapy costs, even though they specifically asked whether their insurance policy would protect Doug if his bone cancer recurred.

"What’s the point of paying for health insurance and then when you need it, discovering the benefits you thought were promised and paid for just aren’t there?" Dana asks. "That’s what happened to my husband Doug and me."

The insurance company, Mega Life & Health Insurance Co., paid less than 18 percent of the total charges. When the Christensens knew Doug was dying, he told Dana she should divorce him so she wouldn’t be responsible for his debts. "I wouldn’t," she says. "I believed in my wedding vows."

Like most Americans, Doug originally had health insurance through his employer. He left that job after his first bout with cancer and went into business for himself. Doug was covered under COBRA for awhile and the Christensens tried to enroll him on Dana’s plan through her job. In the midst of all that, a Mega Life agent, who said she was a representative of a national non-profit association, walked in and solicited his business.

After meeting two or three hours in their home with the agent, they thought it was a great plan and both signed up that night. "We were so concerned about his earlier bout with cancer," she says, "that we even signed up for special chemotherapy coverage."

Then Doug’s cancer came back. The Christensens went to use the policy and were told it was one of the worst polices the hospital had ever seen. They had to put up $8,000 just so Doug could be admitted to the hospital. Then, because their insurance capped out and stopped paying, Cedars Sinai Hospital refused to continue treating Doug. This happened on a day when Doug was in excruciating pain and needed morphine desperately. Luckily, Doug’s oncologist said he could meet him at the emergency room of a different hospital.

"Mega Life had told us that they would pay 80 percent of hospital costs and we would pay 20 percent," Dana says. "They didn’t tell us that chemotherapy was capped at $1,000 a day. Doug’s chemotherapy charges were as high as $18,000 a day!"

Too often the "associations" that sell this insurance have ties to insurance companies. The Christensens got theirs through the National Association for the Self-Employed. The former chairman of UCIC, Mega’s parent company, is Ronald Jensen. He died recently in a car crash. His son, Jeffrey Jensen, runs the company that administers the National Association for the Self-Employed.

At least with state regulation and the right to sue in state court there is the possibility to crack down on these abuses. But President Bush wants to move that authority from the states to the federal government.

"I think President Bush is more concerned about the welfare of the insurance business than in quality health care for people like you and me," says Dana. "I wish he would sit down with me and let me tell him what happened to Doug before he promotes these plans."

Send Dana to D.C.!

Help us raise $5,000 to send Dana Christensen and FTCR advocates to Washington D.C. to tell the Senate: Hands off our state patient protections!

Read the Los Angeles Times story.

Consumer Watchdog
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