Nataline Sarkisyan Dies and Cigna Saves Money

What sucks is what Cigna did to 17 year old Nataline Sarkisyan of Glendale, California. She passed away Thursday within hours of her insurance provider Cigna Health Care’s approval of a life liver transplant to treat her leukemia.

The transplant surgery was originally approved by Cigna according to the teen’s mother. When Sarkisya suffered a lung infection following a bone marrow transplant the company decided to decline the transplant. The insurance company is quoted as describing the treatment as being “too experimental” when denying the teen this life saving procedure. They were once again given the approval just hours before Sarkisya lost her fight for life.

How exactly is ANYTHING too experimental when trying to save a life? I can understand the business of health insurances companies.

If her Doctor’s signed off on a letter to Cigna saying that Nataline needs this liver transplant to treat her leukemia, WHY would Cigna deny that claim?

Attorney Mark Geragos says he plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of the family of a 17-year-old girl who died just hours after her health insurer agreed to pay for a liver transplant.

The parents of Nataline Sarkisyan removed her from life support Thursday.

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“Now we have to start the healing process to try to figure out what happened and why it happened,” said a friend of the family.

Nataline had been in a vegetative state for three weeks, her mother Hilda Sarkisyan told the Daily News.

CIGNA initially declined to pay for the transplant for Nataline because her plan did not cover “experimental, investigational and unproven services,” her doctors said.

This is a statement from Dr. John J. Ryan, founder of IADMD.org:

Are you as pissed as I am about Nataline dying? Hey look. Here’s the phone number for Cigna.

1-818-500-6262

Call them and complain and let them hear from you.

“This is a tragic and profound example of how the system failed this family. The system allows insurance companies to dictate payment, but, as with most families, Nataline’s family relied on their health care benefits to pay for her treatment. In this case a team of medical doctors urged the liver transplant and the insurance company at first denied it. Medical decisions by doctors should be honored and covered by insurance companies.

This is just another example of how insurance companies routinely withhold needed coverage that sustains or prolongs life. This is why the system needs to change. We should no longer tolerate a system that allows bean counters to decide what treatments should be covered. No matter what lawsuits come, this horrendous loss of life occured because the system is broken.

IADMD has a plan to put two dentists and two physicians in front of every state’s insurance commissioner to contribute medical protocols that affect insurance company policies’ coverages, limits, conditions and exclusions. IADMD.org is fighting to reform health care so that doctors are back in charge of health care decisions and payments so that people are never sacrificed to save money. My heart and prayers go out to Nataline and her family and friends.”

Dr. Ryan is seeking support from the presidential candidates to review the IADMD health care plan where this never would’ve happened. He says there ought to be a “Nataline Law” so that this never happens again.

Dr. Ryan is available for interviews. For more information, please visit www.IADMD.org

8 thoughts on “Nataline Sarkisyan Dies and Cigna Saves Money

  1. Jodimaria Rosa

    I ache for poor Nataline and her brave family. I wish them strength. Such a beautiful girl and with such a beautiful voice. It is a travesty that she fell to the merciless hands of the “bean counters” as explained by Dr. John J. Ryan founder of iadmd.org. I say America stands up and supports Dr. Ryan’s “seeking support from the presidential candidates to review the IADMD health care plan where this never would’ve happened.” Too bad it was not considered in enough time for beautiful Nataline and her aching family and loved ones. And I say that Nataline’s death should not be in vain and that Dr. Ryan’s proposal for a “Nataline Law” so that this never happens again would be a phenomenal tribute to Nataline and her family and friends. If such a Nataline law could prevent this horrific result from reoccuring in the world’s leader on health care, then this tribute to Nataline would make her life and unfortunate death worth something honorable. God Bless Nataline and all who suffer from this travesty.

    Reply
  2. chappy

    While it is always sad when a young life ends, this story of Nataline needs to be reviewed rationally and with an eye towards common sense and known science. It is hard to take the emotion out of a young death, but the decision to use a liver that could save a life and use it instead for someone whose life is already compromised and NEVER likely to live normally, just isn’t sound. The availability of organs is too scarce. But before even going to this debate, let’s be clear…..to all those who claim CIGNA KILLED NATALINE, this is untrue. Leukemia killed Nataline. I repeat: Leukemia killed Nataline. Specifially, it sounds from the reports, that Nataline died from the effects of Graft vs. Host disease—-and this complication was a direct result of her Bone Marrow Transplant. In this condition, the body wages a war against foreign material (her brother’s bone marrow) and in the process, it destroys its own organs (like lungs, liver, skin, eyes, etc.). Adding a new liver and a pair of lungs to this war would only intensify it. And in her already compromised state, it is doubtful that Nataline would have ever walked out of that hospital–even if her organs started being replaced with new ones serially.
    I work in Health Care. And I would never imagine that I would defend an insurance company in its decision. But does anyone realize that once her lungs and liver were destroyed by her own body’s attack, any new ones would have been under an equal assault? Additionally, in one article ” Sarkisyan’s 21-year-old brother, Bedros, told reporters that UCLA had a liver available for transplant, but they could not perform the procedure because of Cigna’s refusal to cover it.” To be clear on another point of distortion, there is nothing I have read that prevented UCLA from performing the operation–except the promise of money. If the procedure was so essential, why didn’t the hospital do it anyway? And where are the voices accusing the hospital of witholding care? Where I work, insurance companies deny authorization all the time for treatments that the clinical staff recommends. If we believe the treatment is needed and essential, there are protocols in place for appealing insurance decisions.
    In other words, the hospital didn’t need “permission” from CIGNA to perform the surgery.
    In the end, it is a tragedy. A tragedy that a teenager died before she had a chance to live her life. But it is not CIGNA’s fault, and it is not the fault of the hospital (although UCLA has seemingly dodged any accountability thus far in the press), it was the leukemia’s fault.

    Reply
    1. Jeannine Starkey

      It’s easy to sit behind a desk, and make your assessment, if it were your child would you rationalize, is it worth it? Perhaps she would’ve died anyway, and maybe she would have lived a full life with a career, children, a husband, and all the other joys of life, but we’ll never know. The doctors were there, the liver was there, the equipment was there and the technology was there, only the money was missing. Yes i agree the doctors could have performed the surgery anyway, but the doctors are not the ones who collect our money pre-sickness. The insurance companies should never deny any treatment. These are INSURANCE companies who take our money month after month, so that we can be assured that should we become sick, we have recourse for that illness, I’ve yet to receive a check back from them for going many years without a sickness, they shouldn’t have a right to decide which course of action I want to take for my survival when i do get sick!

      Reply
  3. Chuck Zubritsky

    If she had acute graft versus host disease, her chances of survival a liver transplant long term would be close to zero. Actually, graft versus host is the opposite of organ rejection. The transplanted immune cells in the bone marrow mount an attack on the recipient’s organs, especially the lungs, liver and skin. It is a horrible way to die. The incidence of GVHD is very high for some forms of leukemia and mortality can reach a rate of 50 %. I think CIGNA has been another victim of media hype and bias. Reputable reporters would have researched this situation and found out that in almost every case, patients in need of organ transplants are immediately disqualified if they have been treated for cancer in the last five years! Of course, this would have gotten in the way of the media’s agenda. Shame on UCLA for even suggesting this procedure.

    Reply
  4. Joe

    Article title is misleading. CIGNA would not have saved any money by denying the transplant. The money would have come from her father’s employer. This is an example of how insurance is generally misunderstood by the public.

    Reply
    1. BunnyX

      Sorry, Joe, not so. This would only be true if the employer were self-funded, and not many are. That is what the employer pays the insurer for, for taking the financial risk.

      Reply
      1. Bill

        Jumping in late – but the employer plan was indeed self-funded.

        CIGNA was no more than the 3rd party administrator (ASO)

        Reply
  5. Susan

    In regards to Jeannine’s statement, “The insurance companies should never deny any treatment.” Really??? So you are suggesting insurance companies pay for every surgery, treatment or test under the sun?! Not financially possible, practical or rational! No insurance company or countries with Universal Healthcare are going to pay for every treatment. Nataline’s chance of survival after a very expensive liver transplant were 65% for a mere 6 months. This $500,000 surgery is better suited for someone with a greater chance of living for decades.
    Leukemia killed Nataline, not the absence of the liver transplant.
    Cigna never said Nataline could not have the surgery, they just said they would not pay for it. Instead of protesting to Cigna for a surgery that was obviously not part of their insurance policy, the family should have been fundraising for the funds on their own for this surgery. It is easy to place blame, especially when one is in such a vulnerable emotional state. Insurance companies do not make medical decisions, they make decisions on what they will pay. No insurance policy covers “experimental” treatment. Period. To those that think the outcome would have been different if we had Univeral Healtcare, think again!!! Nataline would still not get the liver, and probably wouldn’t have recieved much of the treatment she did already receive. Livers don’t grow on trees and it doesn’t make sense to give it to someone, no matter the age, of someone who will not survive.
    People die! That is what happens, we get sick and die.
    “The insurance companies should never deny any treatment.” Read your insurance policy Jeannine. Your statement is just so ridiculous. Health insurance plays out the same as any other insurance. It covers some things, not all!

    Reply

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