HELLthcare at Kaiser Permanente
A man is denied access to health care from Kaiser after being told he has "six months to live."
by Olivia Colt/POOR Race, Poverty and Media Justice Intern
'Kaiser killed me,' said William Fortson, a guest speaker at POOR magazines monthly Community Newsroom meeting.'Kaiser killed me.' Say what?? Is this the same Kaiser that has spent millions of dollars in a marketing campaign telling us how well they take care of us; the same Kaiser insurance my job supplies me with?
William Fortson was diagnosed with terminal cancer of the liver in October of 2006 and was told stoically by his doctors that he had 'six months to live and that he [the specialist] thought it was better for me to enjoy the quality of my life' not the quantity. It is now March of 2007 and William is miraculously standing before us relaying his incredible tale, with his wife Mary, about the injustices of the HMO health care system for which he spent 34 years paying for as part of his employee benefit package. William has an eight cm tumor on his liver, a tumor too big to cut out or to transplant organs, too much trouble to do radiation or kemo, too much trouble for his healthcare provider to care for the well fare of him and his family.
This saga does not begin in late 2006, but rather 6 years earlier when William was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. Like any good patient Bill Fortson went to all his appointments, followed doctors' orders and regiments, and monitored his health to the best of his ability. He played the game and followed all the rules, yet as his pain began to increase in his abdomen, his doctor at Kaiser disappeared into thin air; this resulted in his misplaced medical record and improper diagnoses for his pain for a little over a year.
Americans pay on average $5, 267 annually for health care insurance, this is roughly 42% more than any other industrialized western nation pays in medical insurance. Americans spend more per capita in health insurance then any other nation in the world. The United States is one of the most developed countries on earth yet 32 million Americans receive inadequate coverage, doctors are not equipped with the most up to date technologies, and as a result must perform more expensive and invasive surgeries. Americans are paying a third of every dollar they earn for health insurance; but what are we really getting for all these co-pays, like in William Forston's case, an HMO that refuses to pay for treatment that is covered in his employee benefit package.
William Fortson has a family of three; a beautiful wife Mary and a daughter Sakara whom will be graduating from college this May. And yet, despite all of his nest eggs, William and his family are facing the most challenging experiences of their life. Kaiser refused to provide William with the proper treatment or diagnose that would help extend his life. Furthermore, upon changing HMOs to Pacific Care, William is being withheld from receiving treatment from M.D. Andersen cancer treatment facility in Houston, Texas the number two treatment facility in the nation. Pacific Care, the Fortsons current HMO, covers treatment at this facility yet they refuse to shell out the money to help pay for William's treatment.
A Harvard study recently showed that half of all Americans go bankrupt from medical bills. The Fortsons do not care about the cost of treatment as long as it means that William will continue to live and not be resigned to a death sentence. 'They may feel that my father's life is not worth their trouble but we are not asking for any free-hand outs,' said Sakara. The irony is astounding, we pay so much for the 'best' money can buy and still can callously throw someone's life away because they [the insurance companies] need to 'penny-pinch', to put it bluntly, because they are cheap. 'If I have too, I will stand on a BART platform with flyers denouncing Kaiser and telling my husband's story,' Mary told us as she relayed her side of the story in dealing with the harassment and brush off of the Kaiser Permante and Pacific Care personnel and medical staff.
A few days ago a 12 year old homeless boy Deamonte Driver died from an infection from an abscessed tooth in Maryland. In response Congress has decided that they will allocate a reported 40 million more dollars to health care centers and departments throughout the country to prevent this from happening again. Instead of creating policies to affect change Congress is continuing to feed a broken and corrupt system. Coupled with a proposed bill by Vice President Dick Cheney, whom walked in and out of a hospital in one day recently for a blood clot, to place a malpractice cap for class-action lawsuits at $250k; this ensures that the insurance companies remain well protected from having to pay for the majority damages they incur on their patients. This bill will allegedly 'free' the HMOs from the litigation that is preventing them from offering and providing their constituents with the best possible health care they can afford; the same health care that put William Fortson on death row.
William Fortson to this day is being given the run around by physicians and HMOs while his hour glass of time is quickly running out. The Fortsons have reached out to their community, thinking that support would be overwhelming, but none would listen, no one cares. Finally, after being offered pro-bono services from Felicia Curran, the Fortsons attorney, William has an emergency appoint with the UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco. William is not a guinea pig, he is not some careless object, he is a human being, with a wife and a family. He was living the American dream, or so he thought. William's daughter put it best in a letter she addressed to Anderson Copper 360, 'My father qualifies but no one cares. If a person has health care and can not get help, where else can we turn?'
*KAISER KILLS*!!! Please join the Fortsons and other families and