I have a lot of cancer friends–some had cancer and some still do. I also have a lot of insurance friends.
My insurance friends invariably address me in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. I am known to my immediate family as Kathy and to most others as Katherine. But CIGNA always thinks of me as KATHERINE O’BRIEN.
Remember when you were a teenager and trying to watch TV and your parents kept getting on your case? Always with the questions: Did you finish your homework yet? Is that room clean? Must you sit so close to the television? How many times do I have to tell you to take out the garbage?
Nag, nag, nag.
CIGNA is like that. Do I have any other insurance? Could I possibly be covered under someone else’s policy? Are you positive, KATHERINE?
(Credit where credit is due: I haven’t had any claim issues with CIGNA. And the few times I have called with questions the customer service reps were top notch.)
But as sure as the swallows return to Capistrano, every March CIGNA sends me information on its Cancer Support program. Last year’s began “Good health is a gift.” This year’s reads like a grade school report:
Dear KATHERINE O’BRIEN:
The American Cancer Society estimates that two men and one in three women will face cancer in their lifetime. Although these are scary statistics, CIGNA HealthCare wants you to know we’re here to help…
I appreciate the offer. But my treatment to date has been very mild. And I am very fortunate I don’t have any other health complications. So there’s not much CIGNA could tell me about my “diagnosis and treatment and how to avoid some of the side effects and complications of treatment.”
Last year I was moved to respond with a letter of my own:
Doug Nemecek, MD, MBA
Thank you for your letter of March 2010! I couldn’t agree more that good health is a gift! I was blown away that you want to help me make the most of it.
It was gratifying to know that “as health care claims are submitted to us, we review them and identify steps you might take to help improve your health.” Gosh. I feel a little guilty. I mean, you are poring over my health claims and I am doing bupkis for you. Maybe I could clean out the coffee room fridge in Bloomfield some time? Police the parking lot? Just let me know.
As you might have gleaned from your research, I have metastatic breast cancer. My doctor says that in 2010, there’s no cure for metastatic breast cancer. Of course that’s what she said in 2009. So I do intend to doublecheck in 2011. I will keep you posted.
I was so excited to read the second page of your missive, the one headed “Well Informed.” It says, Breast Cancer—Talk to your doctor about treatment options. Great suggestion! I’m gonna do just that at my next appointment. Usually Dr. Ellen R. Gaynor and I discuss the finer points of the Green Bay Sweep, with particular attention to the efforts of pulling guards Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston. But I will cut it short next month so we can discuss treatment options.
If you recall, in the next paragraph you suggest adding bisphosphonates to my breast cancer plan. Do you think that also could help end the embarrassing scourge of ring-around-the-collar? Or possibly adding some bleach alternative to the Zometa that I have been getting since October 2009 would do the trick.
Tears welled in my eyes as I perused your closing thoughts: “At CIGNA, we think it is important to take care of yourself. Please see your doctor regularly and report any changes in your health.”
I think it is important to take care of me, too. I see Dr. Gaynor once a month. It might be hard to see her more regularly than that. Unless she wants to join my mahjong group. I will make inquiries.
Coming next: CIGNA responds