Health

Cancer Survivor Slams Obamacare, Gives United Healthcare Free Pass for Canceling Coverage

| by Michael Allen

Cancer survivor Eddie Littlefield Sundby recently wrote an Op-Ed for the Wall Street Journal in which she describes losing her health insurance plan on Dec. 31 because United Healthcare has chosen to no longer provide individual health care plans in California.

Sundby, who has gallbladder cancer, has been trying to find new health care coverage via Covered California, which is California's health insurance exchange that was set up under Obamacare.

However, she has not been able to find a plan that works with the exact same doctors that she had before.

Sundby writes in the Wall Street Journal:

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You would think it would be simple to find a health-exchange plan that allows me, living in San Diego, to continue to see my primary oncologist at Stanford University and my primary care doctors at the University of California, San Diego. Not so. UCSD has agreed to accept only one Covered California plan—a very restrictive Anthem EPO Plan.

...Stanford has kept me alive—but UCSD has provided emergency and local treatment support during wretched periods of this disease, and it is where my primary-care doctors are.

What happened to the president's promise, "You can keep your health plan"? Or to the promise that "You can keep your doctor"? Thanks to the law, I have been forced to give up a world-class health plan. The exchange would force me to give up a world-class physician.


For reasons unknown, Sundby defended her original health insurance company United Healthcare, which has chosen not to provide individual insurance plans in the Golden State, noted the Los Angeles Times.

Contrary to Sundby's suggestions, Obamacare and President Obama did not force United Healthcare to quit the individual coverage market in California. The company chose to do so on its own because of its concern about its own profits.

“The company’s plans reflect its concern that the first wave of newly insured customers under the law may be the costliest,” United Healthcare CEO Stephen Helmsley, said in October of 2012, reported Bloomberg News.

“UnitedHealth will watch and see how the exchanges evolve and expects the first enrollees will have ‘a pent-up appetite’ for medical care," added Helmsley. "We are approaching them with some degree of caution because of that.”

Another factor is that Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California and Kaiser Permanente dominate 80 percent of the individual health insurance plan market in California.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said in a press release back in July that Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield get special tax breaks from the state of California, which other health insurance companies do not:

"One of the factors I believe contributed to this decision, even if the two companies are disinclined to acknowledge it, is the special tax break that California law gives to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which has allowed and continues to allow those two companies to avoid paying $100 million in state taxes a year," added Commissioner Jones. "Aetna and United Healthcare don't get the special tax break provided to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and so they faced a major competitive disadvantage in California."

While no one wants Sundby or anyone with cancer to go without the care they need, it's important to note that some people with cancer, such as Richard Streeter, have been denied health care insurance coverage since 2008, noted The New York Times.

Thanks to Obamacare, Streeter can finally get the medical care he has not been able to afford for five years.

Sources: CA.gov, Bloomberg News, Wall Street Journal, Covered California, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times