What a Friend We Have in CIGNA

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:


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

Medical Director


Dear DOUG:

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.

By the way, are you a real person? Or is “Doug Nemecek” an invented person/cultural icon such as “Betty Crocker” or “The Gorton Fisherman”? Just wondering.

Sincerely yours,


Coming next: CIGNA responds

8 thoughts on “What a Friend We Have in CIGNA

  1. Anna says:

    Katherine, I have this to say: BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! This is absolutely priceless. I have one of those very nice insurance friends currently stalking me via telephone. Nurse FeelGood I think her name is. Anyway I want to talk to her like I want another tumor. I mean what could we possibly have to talk about? Perhaps how to ration my care? Take better care of myself? Think positive? Eat three boxes of blueberries a day? You really are the Queen of Letter Writers. I bow to you Your Majesty.

  2. katherinembc says:

    Dear ANNA,

    Thank you for contacting us. As your Cancer Blogging Support Specialist, I’ll work with you, your doctor and other health care providers to offer support and assistance. Please note I won’t actually ever do anything helpful like clean the cat box, pick up your dry cleaning or deal with the two years worth of credit card offers you keep meaning to shred but haven’t.

    Mostly what I will do is read things out loud to you from your Blog Plan Support Documents. To learn more about this program and other resources and tools available to you, see http://www.ihatebreastcancer.wordpress.com.

    Internetly yours,


  3. Anna says:

    Your Majesty, I remain your loyal subject. 😉

  4. Laura says:

    You just absolutely CRACK ME UP!
    I can’t wait to see their reply letter, I bet you don’t even get one.
    Love it!

  5. Jan says:

    This is FANTASTIC! My insurance company, Humana, calls and emails me reminders to get my annual mammogram, that incidentally, they refuse to pay for! They cover regular mammograms but NOT diagnostic ones unless they’re performed in a free-standing facility. So, because I get mine at the hospital that performed my last biopsy, they are not covered. I explained to them this year at mammo time that it was very unpleasant to have them (1) remind me about something I’ve already done and (2) remind me about something they won’t pay for! Gotta love ’em. You are gifted with a wonderful sense of humor about it – I’m jealous!

  6. Katie says:

    Really, so totally awesome.

    I keep getting reminders to visit the local hospital’s mammography center.

    Shouldn’t there be some kind of red flag on their marketing list? The “she doesn’t have any breasts left to radiate” flag?


  7. katherinembc says:

    Maybe we should be like the old person that can drop off his teeth for cleaning at the dentist. Just return the hospital summons with a couple of spare foobs…

  8. christine walker says:

    Hi Kathy,
    Not related to only this post… Thanks for telling me about this blog. It’s great. I’ve enjoyed reading it, and learned a lot. Keep it up, and I’ll keep reading. I’ll also pass it on – I think it would be helpful to a lot of people out there.


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