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PacifiCare Capitulates to Latest Patient Revolt

Insurer authorizes cancer treatment for 17-year-old Nick Colombo, following online activism and in face of protest at office by friends, family, nurses

CYPRESS, Calif., March 25 /PRNewswire/ -- In the face of a national campaign on behalf of Nick Colombo, insurance giant PacifiCare has reversed its decisions and agreed to critically needed cancer treatments for the 17-year-old from Placentia, Calif. The decision came after the company was overwhelmed by calls organized by Nick's friends and family, along with RNs from the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, and netroots activists.

Over 100 of Nick's classmates, friends of the family with their young children, and nurses protested in front of the insurance company headquarters this morning to demand that the approval be put in writing, which a PacifiCare representative, surrounded by T.V. cameras, and promised to do.

"I am extremely happy about PacifiCare's reversal," said Ricky Colombo, Nick's 19-year old brother. "The goal was to get treatment for Nick, and CNA/NNOC and other allies helped us with that. We decided to go through with the rally in order to get their decision on the record and make sure they back up their words -- and also because there are thousands of others in similar situations who can't get the care they need. We feel blessed to have this community supporting our family."

This is the latest example of a "patient revolt," where friends, family, and healthcare activists demand treatments denied by for-profit insurance corporations. In this case, Nick's physicians pleaded with PacifiCare to approve a cancer treatment, only to be overruled by an insurance company medical reviewer. PacifiCare is owned by United Health, the nation's largest health insurer, and just last year was fined $3.5 million by the state of California for wrongly denying 133,000 cases in a two-year period.

Inspired by the pleas of Nick's 19-year-old brother Ricky -- A national web of friends and family of Nick -- CNA/NNOC registered nurses, doctors, healthcare advocates, and netroot supporters pitched in on a national day of action Monday on Nick's behalf. Hundreds of phone callers clogged the lines of PacifiCare and United Healthcare offices around the country yesterday, at times shutting down the phone system, and leading a spokesman to complain about being "overwhelmed" by healthcare activists.

After the state refused to step in last week, Nick's brother Ricky took matters into his own hands, began organizing the protests, and asked for assistance in the patient stories section of the Guaranteed Healthcare, a website maintained by CNA/NNOC to document the stories of real people harmed by health insurance companies. Read his full story here: are .

The netroots protest and calls were organized by Eve Gittelson, an influential health policy blogger who writes on Daily Kos as nyceve, and many of the calls were the product of work by Ricky Colombo in his own community.

"This is an incredible turnaround generated by a massive outpouring around the country that proves that an enraged public can make a difference and achieve results," said Malinda Markowitz RN, who works in a surgical orthopedic unit at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, and is member of the CNA/NNOC Council of Presidents. "PacifiCare had to back down in the face of a mobilized network of patient advocates and healthcare activists who would not take no for an answer."

"Nick is now seriously ill and still has significant hurdles in his fight for her life, but thankfully our combined voices and protests have finally given him and his family hope," said Geri Jenkins, RN, a member of the CNA/NNOC Council of Presidents who works in a transplant unit at the University of California San Diego Medical Center. "However, it is deplorable and appalling that PacifiCare needed to have hundreds of people pounding on their doors and besieging them with calls to take the humanitarian step they should have done long before today," said Jenkins.

Nick's father, Rick Colombo, expressed his profound thanks to CNA/NNOC and all who helped organize the protests for his son. "I am touched that Ricky has the love he has for his brother, that he wants to do what he can to get Nick the best treatment possible. Getting PacifiCare to reverse its decision, and doing whatever it takes to get Nick the care he deserves -- there are no words to express how that feels. I am thankful they've reversed the decision; we don't want to look back we just want to move forward."

"Every politician who thinks the answer to our healthcare crisis is more insurance should stop and think about Nick Colombo," said DeMoro. "Insurance is not care. Paying for insurance coverage is not the same as assuring you will receive appropriate care, even when recommended by a physician as it was for Nick. Insurance corporations profit by denying care to the sick, and that is no way to run a humane healthcare system."

DeMoro said that CNA/NNOC will continue to encourage patient protests and publicize stories about insurance companies' denial of care, as it has all year through its website, while pressing for real healthcare reform "that takes medical decisions out of the hands of insurers and places them where they belong, in the hands of healthcare professionals and their families."

CNA/NNOC is the nation's largest and fastest-growing union of direct-care RNs, with some 75,000 members in all 50 states.

SOURCE California Nurses Association
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