Monday, June 29, 2009
Help Me Howard: Vista Suicide
Have you ever made a mistake? Ever drank too much then did something you regret? One South Florida man did, he called it an accident, doctors called it a suicide attempt, and now it may cost him thousands of dollars which is why he called Help me Howard With Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- We will call him Nicholas, and when we sat down to talk to him the first question was obvious.
Patrick Fraser: "How are you doing today, how do you feel today?"
Nicholas: "Today, I feel is better."
How he felt is important because of how Nicholas has been feeling...
Nicholas: "I was very depressed, and I started to drink too much, and that time is when I was drinking, a lot of pain."
Nicholas suffers from depression. Then, this year, he lost his job and went days without sleeping. On Valentine's Day he was embarrassed and ashamed because he had no money to buy his wife a gift, so after she went to work, he turned to the bottle.
Nicholas: "I started to drink in the afternoon, a lot of pain. I had a lot of pain."
Patrick Fraser: "Pain."
Nicholas: "Pain in my brain, my brain."
After drinking all afternoon with some friends, he came home and thought if he went to sleep the pain would go away, so he opened the medicine cabinet.
Nicholas: "I used a couple of the pain medicine and the sleeping medicine, because I would like to sleep all night."
His friends came by to check on him and found him unconscious and dialed 911. Nicholas was rushed the hospital.
Patrick Fraser: "Did you try to kill yourself?"
Nicholas: "No, this thing is not to kill, but I have a lot of pain."
But, in his report, the doctor wrote Nicholas tried to 'End it all,' and that he remains 'depressed' with 'suicidal ideation.' Nicholas says he never told the doctor he wanted to kill himself.
Nicholas: "It is not really in the suicide."
Patrick Fraser: "But, the doctors considered it suicide."
Nicholas: "Yes, because they said, 'You're drinking after you take the pills, and you're thinking about doing the suicide.'"
A few days later Nicholas was released and sent home in time to get a letter from his insurance company.
Nicholas: "My insurance said, 'We will not cover your money.'"
Patrick Fraser: "Because..."
Nicholas: "Because they said, 'You tried to kill yourself.'"
Patrick Fraser: "The medical bills, how much do you owe the doctors and the hospital?"
Nicholas: "It's $17,000."
Patrick Fraser: "$17,000?"
Nicholas argues he did not try to kill himself, that he was drunk and took too many pills, and even if he had tried to kill himself, he believes they should still have to pay for his medical care.
Nicholas: "I would like that they pay, pay my bill because it is not fair. We pay every month the insurance money. We need them, they said no."
Well, Howard, it's a simple question, if you attempt suicide is your insurance company off the hook?
Howard Finkelstein: "Either way, whether it was an accidental overdose or intentional, his insurance company has to pay. Their policy says they don't, but in 2001 the federal government required insurance companies to pay if the person attempting suicide suffered from a medical condition such as depression."
We then contacted Vista which insures Nicholas under the plan for employees of the State of Florida. Vista would not talk to us, so we got in touch with the Department of Management Services which oversees the Vista contract.
After meeting with the state, Vista did a 180, sent Nicholas this letter and agreed to pay his $17,000 medical bill. The state told us Vista would now change their plan to cover everyone like Nicholas, and Howard says a case like this is a good reminder.
Howard Finkelstein: "Take some time and read your insurance policies. See what is and isn't covered, so at least you are aware of what is covered ahead of time rather than during a time of crisis, and if you see something that isn't covered but should be, start fighting now."
Fortunately, Nicholas got help for himself, and he has some words for anyone else who might be in bad shape and thinking about suicide.
Patrick Fraser: "What would you say to someone, who is watching, who has pain, who is thinking about suicide? What would you tell them to do?"
Nicholas: "I think it's not a good idea, as life is good, as life is very good."
And if you think you have reached rock bottom, well, then the good news, tomorrow will be better. It can't be any worse. As for Nicholas, he has found a job. He is working and is being treated for depression. His wife told me he is doing great.
Lost all hope of solving a problem? Never give up. Just give it to us. We're not experts at anything, but we are hardheaded and refuse to quit on everything.