Man Denied Life-Saving Health Insurance Because Of 26 Cents

| by Michael Allen
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Sergio Branco was diagnosed in January with acute myeloid leukemia, which can kill within months or weeks.

The 33-year-old father took three months off from work from his truck driving job under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to start chemotherapy and transfusions, notes

Doctors said a bone marrow transplant would prolong his life, but the cost would be more than $500,000. Fortunately, Branco had health insurance, but then he lost it three months later after FMLA expired and his employer Russell Reid fired him.

The Edison, N.J., man applied for health insurance coverage through the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act (COBRA), which allows a fired worker to keep the same health insurance but requires the worker to pay the full premium.

Branco's wife, Mara, called Paychex, which was handling COBRA on Russell Reid’s behalf, to ask about the premium for just Sergio.

She was told the cost would be $518.26 per month, but Mara accidentally wrote the May 24 check for $518  without the 26 cents.

Paychex cashed the check on June 11, and Branco continued to receive treatment. Later in June, Branco's hospital said the insurance coverage had been terminated.

Mara was told by Paychex that the payment was 26 cents short. Paychex also told her it was instructed by Russell Reid not to accept any more payments.

Mara called Russell Reid, Paychex and the U.S. Department of Labor, but no one would take responsibility for renewing Sergio's insurance.

"There’s nothing to comment on at this point," said Russell Reid's human resources representatie Rich Gross to "We’re still trying to figure it out."

"Paychex is working diligently with our client and other appropriate parties right now to reinstate Mr. Branco’s coverage," said spokeswoman Laura Saxby Lynch. "We are very ardently working on the situation with all parties including the carrier, and the decision ultimately rests with the carrier."

The Brancos hired attorney Jeffrey Resnick who went to court last week. He claimed that Branco should have been notified about the 26 cents before his coverage was terminated, which did not happen. Resnick also claimed the law also says health coverage cannot be terminated for "non-payment of a de minimis amount."

After Resnick got involved, the situation instantly resolved itself via all three parties.

"The Department of Labor said the company will reinstate him from May till now," Mara said on Friday. "They said the company did it wrong. I am super happy. It’s like a weight has lifted off my shoulder. It’s better than winning the lottery."