In May 1999, Abigail Sulerzyski was born deaf and blind with cerebral palsy and multiple other medical complications. While Victoria, her mother, was learning how to cope with the needs of a severely disabled child, she was also learning how to fight with UnitedHealthcare.
Abigail required continuous feeding through a jejunostomy tube, and the insurer was denying the prescription nutritional supplements that Abigail needed to survive. As Victoria was preparing to mount a legal battle against United, “something changed around December of that year,” she said. The formula along with other specialized equipment was covered.
“I went from having to fight for everything to having their nurse call me every month to ask, ‘How can I help you?’” Victoria didn’t bother trying to understand this abrupt change; she was just grateful to have more time to take care of her daughter.
When I met Victoria a few weeks ago and she shared this story, I explained the dramatic shift that she experienced. The early hassles resulted from the “mother may I” medical necessity review that gave company medical directors the authority to supersede the judgment of treating physicians regarding patients’ clinical care needs.
But in November 1999, United made the bold and very public decision to stop interfering with the doctor-patient relationship. While other prospective and retrospective utilization management (UM) activities continued, second-guessing physicians came to an enterprise-wide halt. Read more »