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Letter to the editor: Anthem policy change may undermine ER care

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Editor’s note: On March 2, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, co-signed a letter asking the secretaries of the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Labor to review the actions by health insurer Anthem to deny emergency room coverage for Missourians’ care that is deemed nonemergent. The letter calls it a potential violation of consumers’ rights and federal law.

Dear editor,

Recently, Anthem announced it would evaluate emergency room visits after the fact to determine whether the visit was necessary and would be covered. This means that if an Anthem customer visits the emergency room and their condition ends up being diagnosed as nonemergent, Anthem can deny coverage.

I am concerned that policies like this could discourage people from seeking emergency care when they experience the symptoms of a heart attack or stroke – conditions where minutes can mean the difference between life and death. In moments of emergency, a patient’s only concern should be their health, not their insurance coverage.

For decades, the American Heart Association has worked to educate people on the importance of calling 911 and seeking immediate medical attention. I worry this policy will undermine those efforts and lead to lives lost to heart disease and stroke due to lack of treatment.

I implore the Senate to approve Missouri Senate Bill 982, making insurance companies cover emergency treatment, even when the diagnosis proves nonemergent.

I urge all Missourians to contact lawmakers to express concern on the impact the Anthem policy could have. You also can text “MOHEALTH” to 46839 to take action.

—Gretchen Cliburn

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