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BUT NOT UNEXPECTED
I wish to thank freelance writer Bob Schaper for the excellent article he put together about problems state employees and retirees are having with the state health plan ["The state of pain," Jan. 22].
It is unbelievable how CMS and Cigna can hold to the state line of "business as usual" when I have more than 76 pending claims since July 2002 (when Cigna began administering the state health plan) and never had a single one held up or denied the three years prior to that. Unbelievable, but not unexpected. To me, that seems like a glaring change of some kind.
Nicole Grady of CMS admits there is something called "claim hold" in place. Without the bureaucratic spin, that means that the longer the state can delay paying approved claims, the more interest the state can make on money that should be in the claimant's pocket. In the meantime, that same claimant has to borrow money to pay ongoing bills -- often for the doctors' bills that have been approved for the state to pay. I had my knee replaced in November 2002, and several months later doctors were threatening me for payment of approved claims that the state had not paid yet (well over $1,000). I had to pay out of my pocket and just recently received reimbursement for those expenses. If only we all could manipulate money as the state.
I wish to elaborate on the care I have received from Dr. Louis DiStasio, who is one of only a few board-certified acupuncturists in town and is very professional and ethical. His treatments for me have covered a wide range of problems, some more severe than others. He has alleviated many ailments and pains that traditional medicine had either failed at or would have taken much longer [to treat]. As stated in Mr. Schaper's article, acupuncture has been the only form of treatment that has helped. I did not mean to imply that acupuncture could cure everything, but it really helped my many varied health problems. By age 69, quite a few things start changing and falling apart.
TIME TO STAND UP AND FIGHT
I retired from the State of Illinois two years ago after 35 years of service and I too am a victim of CIGNA's inability to pay -- not regular medical bills but chiropractic/acupuncture/therapeutic massage.
George Perry and I worked together. A couple of years ago we started running into one another at Dr. Louis DiStasio's office -- we were either getting our acupuncture treatments or our massages. Neither of us realized that we shared more than similar physical problems, neither of us was able to get our bills paid by CIGNA.
It was only after I ran into Perry in October that I discovered our insurance "nightmares" were the same. He had yet to pursue the "appeal process" that I had already taken advantage of. I contacted every politician I could think of, including the governor and Central Management Services, which oversees the state's insurance. I was finally successful in getting half of my acupuncture bill paid but I was still left to pay off the rather sizable amount.
I don't know how they (being CIGNA) can use what they call independent reviewers to do the appeals. These people are paid by CIGNA -- there is nothing independent about them. Then they always reach the decision that it is not "medically necessary." How could they tell that without ever coming face-to-face with those asking for the appeals.
I have come to the conclusion that if the chiropractor or acupuncturist is not part of a plan (group) they are less apt to be paid than those physicians who are connected to a group. I visited my podiatrist on Jan. 6 and by Jan. 16 they paid him -- not the customary 80 percent but 90 percent because he's part of the "plan." That being the case I am not so sure it's the state's budget woes keeping CIGNA from paying but rather some other deal that has been cut between the "physician groups" and the insurance company itself.
The chiropractors need to stand up and fight to be heard. There was a time when I would never have said this but I now see that for me with my lifelong bout of back problems, this is the only thing keeping me on my feet. I hope to live long enough to see a change in society's thoughts on "alternative medicine" -- in some cases, it is the only thing that works.
TELLING IT LIKE IT IS
The article, "Bad Boys," is a classic Illinois Times article in that it addresses an important issue the traditional press avoids and describes an event that few of us follow, but affects us [Peggy Sower Knoepfle, Dec. 18]. In it, Knoepfle gives us high drama, with threat of injury and jail. In a coherent style, she gives us the perspectives of so many participants in a complex situation. Clearly her years as editor of Illinois Issues at UIS hasn't left her in retirement. She nails the issue of why we should not only follow the trail of trade agreements, but also master the details. Couch potatoes need not apply!
NAFTA, FTAA and their ilk threaten our livelihood, just as they threaten farmers, workers and indigenous peoples. Trade agreements undermine labor laws of participating nations. They undermine environmental protection, safety and other laws. They disrupt local economies with artificial 'free trade zones' and predatory labor practices. Multinational corporations are the big winners and the disproportionate U.S. power steamrollers opposition at home and abroad. They are a threat few take seriously, and those that do oppose them do so at considerable risk, as 'Bad Boys' shows.
The use of force to stop protests has grown since the WTO Seattle demonstrations. "Bad Boys" gives evidence of federal, state and local efforts to deny demonstrators their right of assembly, their dignity, and their freedom. Knoepfle's conclusion bears repeating: "We had better take care. If we don't wake up and start acting like we live in a democracy, we will find ourselves in a corporate/military state." Knoepfle deserves a medal for valor. She speaks of the contradiction of the event, without anger. She is a contradiction herself, a gentle/angry grandmother, who tells it like it is.
WMD OR NOT, SADDAM HAD TO GO
In response to a letter appearing in the Dec. 18 Illinois Times [Rod Helle, "Sick to his stomach"]: Enough in the media about the justification of America's involvement in the war with Iraq. Even if no weapons of mass destruction have yet been found, I agree, along with a few prominent leaders in both political parties, that the world is a lot safe with Saddam Hussein being properly dealt with.
If those news releases about women and other Iraqis being shot in the head and disposed of in mass graves, along with Saddam killing both his daughters' husbands, are true, [this man] would suffer the proper punishment and by no means should be a ruler of a country in the year 2004.
Michael A. Schuck Sr.