Doug Nemecek is Alive and Well and Living in Minnesota

Yesterday I shared my letter to CIGNA’s Doug Nemecek about the company’s silly letters/wellness program. To his credit, Dr. Nemecek did respond:

Dear Ms. O’Brien

Thank you for the letter I received detailing your concerns with CIGNA’s Well Informed program. Let me start by confirming for you that as a person born at LaGrange Memorial Hospital, and graduating from Lyons Township High School, I am definitely a “real person.”

CIGNA’s Well Informed program is designed to help improve the quality of care that people receive by identifying potential gaps and omissions in care, and sharing that information with those individuals and their physicians. We do this because research has shown that Americans receive appropriate medical care only about 55% of the time. CIGNA believes that helping to identify and resolve gaps in care is critical to helping improve the health of everyone we support.

The letter that you received as part of this program was a general health improvement letter sent to women with a history of metastatic breast cancer. I understand your concerns that the letter was not helpful to you or your care. I take your concerns very seriously and thank you for the feedback. I am happy to let you know that as we reviewed the program this spring we had identified this letter as one that was not likely  to be adding significant value. We have discontinued this letter. Your feedback confirms that our decision was correct. We simply did not make the change prior to the letter being mailed to you in March.

I am glad that you are working so closely with  your physician. If you would like to discuss this further please feel free to call me at [number redacted].


Doug Nemecek, MD, MBA


I had to respond. After I sent this letter, I realized I had confused Eden  Prairie, MN with Long Prairie, MN. Well, if you’ve seen one prairie, you’ve seen them all…

Doug Nemecek, MD, MBA

Medical Director


Eden Prairie, MN 55344

Dear Mr. Nemecek (if it’s really you),

Thank you for your letter of June 4. Some years ago, I visited a printer (Banta) in Eden Prairie. This was my first visit to MN, a place I knew of vaguely from watching “Mary Tyler Moore” reruns. Upon arriving, we ate lunch at the “Mall of America.” Maybe it is all those casseroles or, like Eskimos, Minnesotans have to bulk up for the severe winter. Many were rather large. Some may have had their own zip codes.

En route to Eden Prairie, we passed a sign advertising the Sinclair Lewis Boyhood Home and Museum. I was impressed, but unfortunately we couldn’t stop. (I may be the last person who read “Main Street.”)  Later we passed a sign for Mankato, and I knew I was on a true literary trail, because “Mankato” was a frequent destination for Ma and Pa and the “Little House on the Prairie” girls.

As I recall, there were two lodging options in Eden Prairie: an independent establishment (the Pink Palace) and what may formerly have been a franchise, Motel 5. (I will assume it may have one time been a full-fledged Motel 6, but in the U.S. equivalent of the Michelin ratings, it lost one digit.) We chose the latter.  As we checked in, I observed one of our fellow guests was storing a six-pack of beer on his window sill.

The next day, we went to a diner for breakfast. Have you ever seen “Shane?” Remember when Alan Ladd goes into the saloon and buys a soda pop? This will give you an idea of what our reception was like. Although the locals’ “Minnesota Nice” response quickly kicked in.

You mentioned CIGNA’s commitment to “helping to identify and resolve gaps in care.” We have a unique opportunity to do just that in my neck of the woods. The Chicago Sun Times recently reported the days of hauling dolphins, gorillas and tigers from Brookfield Zoo to Loyola University Medical Center for checkups are over.

The Maywood hospital donated a CT scanner able to handle weights of up to 400 pounds to the zoo, which joins the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo as the only zoos in the country with on-site scanners.

“It makes it much easier and safer for the animals,” said Michael Adkesson, a zoo veterinarian. “When we take an animal to Loyola, it has to be under anesthesia for the move.”

Now, here’s where the synergy comes in. I am a Loyola patient and a member of the Brookfield Zoo. If we could just convince Ellen R. Gaynor, MD to meet me at the zoo, I think we could realize significant savings on the costs for all concerned.

Plus, thanks to the efforts of everyone from Marlin Perkins to Jack Hanna to the late Steve Irwin, there has been an insatiable public interest in the animal kingdom.  “Oncology at the Zoo” could be a multimedia hit. Provided Dr. Gaynor could be convinced to wear a pith helmet.


Katherine O’Brien

P.S. A few years ago, I was going through passport control at O’Hare. The customs official took my passport and flipped through it. “Did you go to Elte?” he asked. “No, just Germany,” I said, thinking “Elte” must be some obscure principality like Monaco or Vatican City. It turned out he was asking me if I graduated from Lyons Township (“L.T.”). I graduated from Carmel (Mundelein).


One thought on “Doug Nemecek is Alive and Well and Living in Minnesota

  1. David says:

    One of the reasons our citizens receive “appropriate medical care only about 55% of the time” is that they were denied coverage by insurance purveyors or can’t afford the astronomical premiums required by those firms. That is one “gap in care” the insurance industry have seemed unwilling to address. It is comforting to know, though, that CIGNA and its brethren insurers “care” so much. It is a comfort, too, for the uninsured to know that the zoo animals now have easier access to health care – and without having to pay those pesky premiums, too! I’ll bet those caring folks at CIGNA have taken note of your idea of share-scanning with the zoo critters! You may get a letter of commendation from them – along with helpful suggestions about lice removal should you happen to pick up a few after sharing the scanner with Judy the Chimp or Clarence the Crosseyed Lion.

    Thank goodness for your razor wit. My best to all your readers.


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