Cigna Denial Tactics Video Transcript
CHRIS: So it’s our GMA Gets Answers series. A big topic has been disability insurance. Now this is critical. Many of you pay a little each week or each month to get insurance if you ever get hurt and can’t work; it’s vital. Recently we told you about a woman who spent years fighting to get her disability benefits. Since then, we’ve heard from more of you from all over this country who have been dealing with similar situations.
CHRIS: These are voices of people in pain who contacted us after we aired a recent story about Cigna Group Insurance.
FEMALE VOICE: We didn’t know if we were going to be able to eat.
FEMALE VOICE: I can’t afford to visit my new grandchildren.
MALE VOICE: I really believed, you know, they would do the right thing.
SUSAN KRISTOFF: It is a daily eight-hour job just trying to fulfill the information that Cigna was requesting.
CHRIS: Susan and her lawyer, Alicia Paulino-Grisham, blamed her troubles with Cigna on an industrywide practice of deliberate delay they call slow walking.
ALICIA PAULINO-GRISHAM: The insurance companies understand that if they delay and deny claims then many of the claimants will never pursue their claim.
CHRIS: During our investigation, Cigna reversed course and paid Susan’s claim. They wouldn’t talk to us, but their insurance trade group told us cases like Susan’s were the exception, not the rule.
When I talked to you about slow walking, when I tell you that people say that claims don’t get paid, that it’s industrywide in cases, you’ve never heard of anything like this before?
SUSAN PISANO: I’ve not heard that term used before. I–
CHRIS: Have you heard of the problem before?
SUSAN PISANO: What, what I do know is that there’s a process. It’s designed to be fair.
[GRAPHIC: GMA Gets Answers]
CHRIS: Well, after our story aired, it seemed Susan’s case was not isolated.
CHRIS: We received dozens of emails from viewers all across the country saying like Susan, they too had been unfairly denied disability benefits from Cigna, despite submitting extensive medical evidence they were too sick to work. Like Susan, some complained of deliberate delay tactics in paying claims.
CHRIS: Laurie Bailey, a former police fingerprint analyst has been fighting Cigna for nearly three years.
LAURIE BAILEY: This fight has caused me to go deeply into debt and I’ve lost everything that I’ve worked hard for my whole life.
CHRIS: Others, like Bob Eklund, complained Cigna denied he was disabled, despite mountains of medical evidence the former chief engineer submitted.
BOB: I can’t explain it. You know, what, what do you do then when your company says you can’t come back to work and your insurance company — what can you say?
CHRIS: Jeanine Pendly suffers from a debilitating lung disease.
JEANINE PENDLY: I purchased insurance to protect myself and my family. I’ve seen my business destroyed, my savings depleted and my family battling to keep our home.
CHRIS: In Ursula Gidrey’s case, Cigna paid benefits for a while then stopped.
[GRAPHIC: Ursula and children]
CHRIS: Cigna told Ursula she should be able to work full time even though she was suffering from advanced breast cancer.
[GRAPHIC: Ursula and Michael]
CHRIS: Her husband is Michael Cromey.
MICHAEL CROMEY: We thought it was crazy because my wife was so incredibly disabled and we had medical documentation to prove it.
[GRAPHIC: Ursula and children]
MICHAEL CROMEY: And it threw us into a panic because we didn’t know how we were going to pay for our mortgage and, and, and support our children.
[GRAPHIC: Elizabeth and baby]
CHRIS: Cigna told grandmother Elizabeth Barris Scronick she should be able to work despite her heart disease.
ELIZABETH SCRONICK: This year for Mother’s Day, my son bought me my medications. I never believed that this could happen.
CHRIS: So we went back to Cigna who said they wouldn’t discuss specific cases even though everyone mentioned in our story gave them permission to talk to us. They did agree to a nonrecorded phone call with their chief medical officer.
CHRIS: And gave us a written statement saying Cigna pays 90 percent of their claims and that a majority of their clients are satisfied. But some in Congress don’t agree.
DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And basically, I, I want to pursue legislation, file a bill that would establish punishment for the insurance company when they wrongly deny claims. Right now there is no punishment.
CHRIS: Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz heard about Susan and our first piece and is poised to take action.
DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I’m going to make sure that we pursue these insurance companies and make sure that they are covering the claims that they’re supposed to until we can get this law passed.
[GRAPHIC: Ursula and children]
CHRIS: Still, change can’t come too soon so others can avoid the fate of Ursula Gidrey.
MICHAEL CROMEY: Three months later after we got the money from Cigna, my, my wife died of, of breast cancer and, and I can’t help but think about the time that my wife wasted during her last year on earth.
MICHAEL CROMEY: Time that she could have been spending with me and the children, time that she wasted fighting an unethical insurance company.
ROBIN ROBERTS: So hard to hear a story like that. And, and it’s an ongoing problem for so many, but you do have good news for some.
CHRIS: There is good news. And when we started going — you heard about Laurie Bailey there. We went to Cigna and made calls about her case and all of a sudden she got a call from them and her lawyers say that they’re going to get paid back benefits; $80,000 she’s owed in back pay, she’s going to get it.
The reason this works though is because you come to us. You tell us about the stories. You tell us about the problem. We will make the calls. We will try to tell the story. So please, if you have a story, if you have an issue you’ve heard about, go to ABCNews.com, send us an email.
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