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Nearly five years ago, 32-year-old Lindsay Rumberger was diagnosed with epithelioid hemangioendothelioma, a long name for a rare cancer that had originated in her liver and metastasized to her lungs. She underwent chemotherapy, but when a tumor close to her spine showed signs of growth, radiation was part of the recommended course. Because conventional radiation treatment threatened to cause peripheral damage to this most sensitive part of the body, her doctors recommended proton therapy instead. However, the insurance provider disagreed, calling the treatment “experimental” and refused coverage.
The Dr. Oz Show learned of her case and invited Rumberger, a medical resident and then engaged to be married, along with Dr. Allen Meek, medical director for Provision Medical Group, to New York City to tape a segment focused on insurance denials for life-saving treatments. The show aired on WVLT Local 8, which also interviewed Dr. Meek for its morning and afternoon shows.
In the segment, produced by guest host Montel Williams, he and Dr. Oz interviewed Rumberger and Meek and discussed the insurance market’s “profit and loss” approach to patient care.
“That’s what they think of us as, a ‘loss,'” Oz said in the segment. “Insurance companies don’t really look at you as a patient…. They look at the bottom line.”
In the end, Rumberger’s treatment will be covered by insurance—which has approved her appeal since the original taping of the show. Others, however, are not so fortunate.
Lou Lovingood, a breast cancer survivor and Provision’s 500th patient, was denied by insurance on multiple appeals and is now having to pay out of pocket for treatment she received last year.
“Insurance companies can call themselves non-profit, but it’s just a joke,” she says. “I’m so glad that Dr. Oz has focused that light. Hopefully it will bring some attention to what’s happening here.”