The 17-Year-Old Who Didn’t Have to Die

“This country is hard on people.”

That one line from No Country For Old Men will never leave my mind. It stands out for so many reasons. Today is yet another reminder.

Nataline Sarkisyan died just hours after her family’s HMO changed its mind and decided to pay for her liver transplant. A transplant that was not an option.

From the Times:

Philadelphia-based Cigna HealthCare, denied the transplant earlier this month.

Doctors at UCLA sent a letter Dec. 11 to Cigna emphasizing that Nataline was eligible for a transplant, Hilda Sarkisyan said. But Cigna refused to pay, citing a lack of medical evidence the procedure would help.

Doctors at UCLA believed that Nataline had a fighting chance. The insurance company disagreed. The family staged a rally of about 150 people in Glendale, including the California Nurses Association. Cigna reversed their decision. Too little, too late.

Nataline Sarkisyan is dead at 17.


8 thoughts on “The 17-Year-Old Who Didn’t Have to Die”

  1. Because it was perceived as cost effective. As simple as that. Insurance companies pay bonuses for keeping expenses down.

    Remember, if everybody gets health care, the communists have won.

  2. Ya know a tear ran down my cheek when I heard it on the news as I know too well what it is like to sit in a hospital while a 17 year dies. Awful memories regurgitated up.

    The interesting bit in the news I didn’t know from the original post the other day is that the poor thing had been in a vegetative state for the last few weeks while it was being duked out with CIGNA. IF done earlier who knows what the outcome would have been. Her doctors said she had a 65% chance of surviving, pretty good odds considering where she had been and what eventually happened.

    The problems is that health plans and HMO’s in particular don’t answer to the Dept of Insurance and held to their “unfair claims practices” guidelines. They answer to the Dept of Corporations which are entirely too loose in how they govern the HMO’s in my not so humble opinion. (I’m allowed this exemption as after 14 years in insurance claims I picked up more than a few things).

    DB, we already have proof socialized medicine doesn’t work, look at Medi-Cal and Medicare. People can’t afford the deductibles on those nor do they get immediate treatment even that needs approval from the govt. If they can’t run a DMV do you expect them to run health care? We need a lot of changes and fixes, the better option is to roll it into the DOI and put in place accountability.

  3. The interesting thing is that if she had Medi-Cal, or if she were a veteran and in the VA system, she probably would’ve been more likely to have gotten the transplant. Without the profit incentive, I think these entities are a lot less likely to deny a procedure, provided that there’s actually some evidence it could work. And in this instance, there are definite cases where people survived. Just look up “orthotopic liver transplant” and “venoocclusive disease” (the likely cause of her liver failure in the setting of stem cell transplant, from what I understand) on PubMed.

    While this is just speculation, working for a governmenet-run hospital, I know for a fact that the case managers are often more relieved to find out a patient has Medi-Cal, because we know that they’ll probably pay for certain things, in contrast to some of the private insurance plans we’ve had to work with.

  4. The Militant’s sources from the Armenian American community have informed him that the family has called on star attorney Mark Geragos to file a lawsuit against Cigna, which will be announced soon.

    For those following and supporting Nataline’s cause, the family urges them to wear pink in solidarity.

  5. And none of the dim bulbs at CIGNA had any inkling that they would pay out 100 times more than the cost of the transplant when the family sued?

    The fact that they actually reversed their position and approved the procedure assures they will lose the case and end up paying that family millions of dollars in damages.

    And what do you think that will do to health care costs?

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