HMO Delays Care for Cancer Patient

Published on

William Pratt – Vacaville, CA

As told by William’s wife, Patricia:

My husband, William Pratt, was diagnosed by his HMO with acute pancreatitis and treated for a year and a half. On January 26, 1995, he died of cancer.

In the weeks before his death, we experienced things that I did not believe could happen in our country.

When William was first told he had cancer, we were told by his physician that an oncologist would examine William that morning and work out a treatment plan. He waited for 10 agonizing hours for this doctor to show up. Her office kept telling him she would be there, but after she failed to show up his physician released him from the hospital.

It turned out to be eight days before the HMO could get him into see a specialist, and we will never know if that delay would have made any difference.

While he was in the hospital, there was a failure to provide adequate pain relief during his hospital stay. In fact, the on-call physician discontinued pain medication that had been ordered by his primary physician.

There was inadequate staff and poor housekeeping conditions. Also, there was a failure to provide comfort and compassion to the patient and the patient’s family.

Substandard medical care is just as devastating as a major illness, and far too costly. The laws must be changed to protect the patients rather than protect the HMOs. ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, contains a little known loophole that prevents people like us, who receive their health care through their employer, from seeking damages against their HMO.

For a year and a half, my husband was in almost constant pain. All of us in his family are still suffering. This is not an isolated incident…it is happening far too often.

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