Things are changing around here, and I’ve been meaning to update you all on my Lincoln Financial Group appeal for a while now. Better late than never, right?
The first thing I have to report is that last week I signed a retainer agreement with a law firm, and I now have legal representation in my fight against the jerks at LFG. It took me a good long while to find an attorney. I’m too tired to explain why lawyer shopping feels like such an insurmountable burden, but just trust me: it is. Having brain cancer doesn’t help, but that’s not even the only reason why it’s so hard.
The important thing is that now there’s someone else out there to deal with the Anns and the Sherris of the world. Those loyal, dutiful insurance company employees who (I assume) must pretend every day that they wouldn’t be scapegoated in a heartbeat by their corporate overlords.
Ahem, sorry. Promised myself I wasn’t going to give in too much to the anger today.
In the meantime, I’m going to try to enjoy the fact that I no longer have to restrain myself from signing off every email to Ann or Sherri (or whoever the hell it is this week) with, “Thank you for your kind attention to this matter. Now get diarrhea, you miserable cow.”
(I probably don’t need to say this if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, but if you’re new here you should know that my Lincoln Financial Group appeal doesn’t exactly bring out the best in me.)
OK. So. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m not actually able to sue LFG yet. I have to complete a second appeal before that can happen. (But I got an email with the subject line “Suess, Emily v. The Lincoln National Life Ins Co” and thought it would make a nice blog title.
Anyway, if they win the appeal for me, my benefits will be reinstated, and the law firm will deal with LFG representatives from here on out. I never have to talk to them again. (Sounds nice, right?)
However, if this appeal is denied too, then I can sue. (That’s the way my long-term disability policy is written.) At that stage these kinds of things typically get settled out of court. I’m no expert on why that is, but having been around the block now a time or two, I’m reasonably confident they settle because 1.) it’s cheaper, and 2.) THEY FUCKING KNOW THEY’RE WRONG.
But this isn’t really about right and wrong for the insurance company, is it? It’s about shareholders and CEOs and making easy money off the backs of the sick, poor, and disabled.
Quick aside: This is your daily reminder not to give your money to Lincoln Financial Group.
Moving on to thing two: I have a new oncologist. She is local to me here in Champaign-Urbana and part of the same health system (Carle Foundation Hospital and Physician Group) that employs my primary physician.
I’m not so much dropping my first oncologist as I am just adding a new one. I will get MRIs and the results here locally, but she will confer with the guy who, at this point, knows my tumor better—you know, if the need arises.
Although the drive to St. Louis wasn’t impossible—and everyone I’ve dealt with at Barnes-Jewish was pretty amazing—it was hard to make that routine trek to Missouri. Plus, finding the money for traveling even just a few hours is a problem when you’re unable to work and the disability benefits you’re owed are revoked by insurance company clowns and the profiteering MDs they find to make false claims about your health, MDs like Samuels and Hartner.
So Dan and I met with my new oncologist, Dr. P, on Monday, and although I was a little nervous about it (I have anxiety issues when it comes to doctors as a result of some terrible experiences) I really liked her. Dan did too. As a result of the consult with her, I’m picking up yet ANOTHER doctor.
Tomorrow morning, at Dr. P’s suggestion, I will be meeting with a palliative care doctor. When Dr. P first said the world “palliative” I was like, Ack! No! But it was because I was mistaken about what it meant. I thought it was terminal care, but it’s actually getting help with managing the symptoms of a serious and complicated illness like cancer.
On the drive home, I wondered out loud to Dan why my other oncologist had never mentioned this to me before. But, you know, maybe he did and I just was so overwhelmed I couldn’t or wouldn’t consider it? Or maybe they assumed I was already getting something like that at home? I honestly don’t know. But maybe the palliative care doctor will have some ideas about helping me with the laundry list of chronic symptoms I’m always dealing with. I’d kind of given up on that sort of thing. Most of the time when I tell a doctor that I’m in chronic pain or my nerves don’t work right or I have migraines, I just get shrugs. Maybe this will be different.
Did you go through a Lincoln Financial Group appeal? How did it go?
Dear Penn Medicine Doctors,
If Lincoln Financial Group was paying, would you say a woman with an inoperable, malignant brain stem tumor was “not disabled” and in “remission” despite her attending physician’s professional opinion to the contrary?
If the price was right, would you pretend you know best when even the patient’s own oncologist defers on the matter of her disability?
If the paycheck was fat enough, would you attest to a lie that stripped a disabled person of the long-term disability insurance benefits she paid for?
At least one of your Penn Medicine colleagues would. Shoot, he’d probably even say you don’t know how sick or disabled your patient is if the gig paid enough. I mean, it’s so easy for him to do when he never has to look anyone—doctor or patient—in the eye. He just fills out a report et voila! Robs another cancer patient of her financial security, pads his own wallet.
I wonder if, when typing up his misleading report about me in May, Dr. Lee Hartner figured I’d be too timid or weak to hold him accountable for his profiteering side hustle.
(He should’ve Googled me first. I’ve been writing open letters, blogging about cancer, and just generally sticking up for myself for years.)
Anyway, because individual bad actors like Hartner make it possible for Lincoln Financial Group to rip off disabled consumers and besmirch the good name of do-no-harmers everywhere, I asked Dean J. Larry Jameson to comment on the issue. The way I see it, this is a matter of public interest. If this sort of behavior is the kind of thing Perelman School of Medicine looks for when hiring faculty, maybe patients and med students ought to know.
Unfortunately, Jameson won’t even acknowledge I exist. I guess he can’t be bothered to comment on how Hartner’s lies reflect on Penn, on the Perelman School of Medicine, and on the profession.
Crazy, right? I mean, if Dean Jameson thinks Hartner’s behavior is above-board and medically ethical, why wouldn’t he just say so? And if he thinks it’s unethical, why wouldn’t he release a statement quickly, before the Hartner Stink™ had a chance to get all over the rest of you?
Sorry for the tangent. Back to the original question, which is: Would you do it too?
P.S. Maybe you can help me out with another question I have: Why is it only insurance fraud if the patient lies?
As the news of my brain cancer and Lincoln Financial Group horror story garners interest, more people are asking how they can help—even complete strangers. I’m really grateful, but not always sure what to suggest. I figured if I created a list, people could pick what works best.
Donations and Financial Support
Social Media Platforms
- Follow me on Twitter @EmilySuess
- Follow me on YouTube
- Subscribe to this blog using the form in the sidebar
- Share this blog with someone
- Follow me on Patreon (You can follow my page even if you can’t make a pledge)
- Contact me if you or someone you know has also been harmed by Lincoln Financial Group, Dr. Brian L. Samuels, Dr. Lee P. Hartner, Professional Disability Associates, or Reliable Review Services.
- If your employer offers Lincoln Financial Group insurance policies and/or financial products, ask them to switch. Tell them you don’t want to be ripped off.
- Send an email to Dean J. Larry Jameson. (Copy & paste, takes 30 seconds.)
- Write a letter to the editor of your local paper.
- Ask a journalist to cover the long-term disability industry.
Share Your Stories
- If you work for (or used to work for) Lincoln Financial Group, Professional Disability Associates, or Reliable Review Services and have first-hand knowledge of business practices, contact me or reach out to ProPublica.org.
- If you have a related story you would like me to share, whether you have brain cancer or another disability or illness, send me the link.
- If you or someone you know has a story that needs to be told but need a place to publish it, contact me.
I mean, let’s be honest, we all knew this was coming. At 11:09 this morning, Lincoln Financial Group sent me this email. What’s next? I don’t know yet, but when I do know, I’ll probably tweet about it.
At some point I will get around to uploading the supplemental documents I added to my second letter and the letter itself. I figure if nothing else, you should see what exactly LFG gets away with ignoring and why any premuims you pay them are probably a waste. (Like I keep saying, if they can deny paying me? What cases do they even cover?)
Lincoln Financial Group’s Email
We have completed the review of your appeal for Long Term Disability benefits. The determination is unfavorable and we will be upholding the denial. A letter is being sent to you via email with the decision.
You have a second level of appeal available if your disagree with this determination.
Sherri [Last name redacted]
Lincoln Financial Group
I have hired an attorney to help me with my appeal. The process takes forever, and I still have not completed my second appeal against Lincoln Financial Group. To date, they have not paid me the benefits I am owed for approximately 8 months. I urge everyone to avoid buying policies with LFG. They are a horrible company making billions off people who are vulnerable and sick.
(If you’d like to share your own long term disability horror story here on emilysuess.com, please comment or send me a message through my contact form.
Yesterday, Philadelphia Weekly, published a story about me and my fight to appeal Lincoln Financial Group. I hope you’ll take a few seconds to read it:
Woman with brain tumor says local doc, insurance company conspired to kill disability payments
Even I find the candor of the article a little jarring. It’s one thing to tell your story, it’s something else entirely to hand it over to a relative stranger. I mean, historically, that hasn’t gone well for me, you know?
As vocal as I have been about what’s happening, there are certain things that I have avoided discussing. Deciding what to tell and how it gets told is really the only power I have in this. Letting go of that control for the PW article was terrifying, even though I had confidence and faith in the motives of the people responsible. Nonetheless, I am thankful that PW’s editor Kerith Gabriel and journalist Courtenay Harris Bond decided it was time to turn the lights on the proverbial cockroaches in my life.
On my first attempt to read the piece, I was a living, breathing ball of cringing and wincing. Fuck this is traumatic; no matter how strong anyone thinks I am. So traumatic, that 24 hours later I still haven’t read the whole thing through. Maybe I never will.
As far as I did get, I noticed that there were a couple of places the details seemed obscured or misinterpreted. I second-guessed whether I’d done a good job answering questions and laying out the facts. I started to sweat it a little, but then reminded myself I didn’t start this fire, and I don’t control this story. The larger it gets, the more interpretations of it will exist in the Universe, and that’s not something I’d have the power to change, not even in a perfectly abled body.
So I’m letting go of this step of my fight and regrouping. I know that an official decision from Lincoln Financial Group on my appeal is imminent, and I know that if it’s bad I’ll go through about five to seven days of depression where I just lie in bed, refuse to eat anything nourishing, and have imaginary arguments with the people paid to gaslight me. I’ve got some self-care to do before that happens to try and minimize the downward spiral.
I’ll update you all when I know more.