Insurance companies punish women for cancer screening

An insurance broker dismissed reported test results when signing an agreement with a client, but the company now refuses to pay for vital treatment.

Daiva Repeckaite
Daiva Repeckaite NewsMavens, Lithuania
Insurance companies punish women for cancer screening - NewsMavens

Why this story matters:

The story of Vaiva Mickuvienė is not the only case of insurance companies refusing to pay cancer patients the money they desperately need after duly paying insurance premiums. One may speculate that Mickuvienė did have a lump in her breast before buying an insurance policy, and that she bought one shortly before the final diagnosis, but when she signed the contract, she was officially a healthy woman.

Last year, the same news website published a story about another woman who had to fight for her insurance claim.

The insurance company obtained, without her consent, results of her thyroid screening and accused her of concealing important information.

The woman remembered how the insurance broker cajoled her into buying the service and rushed her through the questionnaire about her health, but failed to send her a copy of the contract for two years after signing.

One more woman shared her story about being forced to become "half lawyer, half doctor and scientist" to prove in court that health conditions typical for women of her age are not symptoms of cancer, and that she has the right to make an insurance claim. The process took two years. The staff of Aviva, her insurance provider, apparently searched her entire medical history to claim that she suffered from conditions leading to cancer, but eventually relented after she found the clinical expert who had been hired by the insurance company -- and who had been rushed into signing a statement that the woman's pre-existing conditions could have led to cancer. She then got him to retract his assessment.

These stories reveal a pattern. Insurance brokers rush prospective clients through the procedure to extract their insurance premiums -- and commission -- but making actual claims is an exhausting process for someone already battling cancer. Importantly, two of these stories are breast cancer patients, who are punished by insurance providers for regularly screening their breasts and recording any suspicious lumps. Insurance brokers would rather see a blank medical history -- any record of cysts and lumps is used as evidence against these women. State policy to promote breast cancer screening cannot be fully successful until this bottleneck is addressed.

Details from the story:

  • Vaiva Mickuvienė received numerous calls from insurance brokers advertising health and life insurance. She eventually agreed to signing a contract with ERGO, an insurance company, in the beginning of the year. She says she told the broker about discovering a lump in her breast at the last screening, but since it was not malignant, the broker decided not to include this information in the file. Mickuvienė did not receive a copy of the questionnaire about her health.
  • In summer, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and requires treatment that is not covered by the state.
  • ERGO claims that she withheld important information about her health when signing the contract and is hence ineligible for the payment. The company refused to comment the case to journalists citing the client's privacy.
  • TGS BALTIC lawfirm decided to defend Mickuvienė in court on a pro bono basis. According to a cancer patients' lobby, this is the first time a law firm takes up a claim of a vulnerable individual against a powerful commercial player.

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
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