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Insurance Misunderstanding Might Have Cost Man His Life

Posted March 22, 2007
Updated March 23, 2007

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— UnitedHealthcare and WakeMed want the public to understand that even though the hospital is no longer honoring the insurance, it will in case of an emergency.

Earlier this month, the two ended their relationship after a dispute over how much the carrier pays the hospital for services its member receives.

But a Wendell couple's misunderstanding of the agreement might have cost the man his life.

On March 3, Jackie Boykin rushed her husband of 46 years, Randell, to the hospital after he complained of chest pains. They bypassed the closer hospital, WakeMed.

"The main reason we went to Rex was because of the insurance," Boykin said.

Boykin collapsed in the parking lot of Rex Hospital and never regained consciousness. He died March 12.

The Boykins drove right by WakeMed not knowing that UnitedHealthcare and WakeMed had agreed that their members would be covered in an emergency.

"It's terrible, and it's tragic that people haven't got that message," said Deb Frieberg, chief operating officer of WakeMed.

Frieberg said the hospital and UnitedHealthcare have tried to get out that message.

"No matter what your insurance, they need to go the closest emergency department and trust that we will work out any concerns they have," she said.

For Boykin, the information comes too late, but she hopes others will learn from the situation.

"This might have saved my husband's life if we could have gone to Wake," she said. "We did what we thought we had to do."

UnitedHealthcare of North Carolian CEO Austin Pittman told WRAL in a statement Thursday that the company is very disturbed by the tragedy and reiterated that patients with UnitedHealthcare would be covered at any Triangle-area hospital for an emergency.

"In the event of an emergency, our members are to go to the nearest emergency room for care, regardless of whether the hospital is in network or no, the emergency services they receive will be covered at in-network benefit levels," he said.

124 Comments

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  • Secret Squirrel Mar 25, 2007

    This is a sad story. My condolences go out to the Boykin family.

    United Healthcare should have provided more information to its members so that this would be avoided. Contract disputes do happen, and who it really hurts is the patient. I understand why WakeMed would not bend to United -- United has too much to make up for since it gave its outgoing CEO a billion dollar golden parachute.

    I hope that the Boykin family is able to seek restitution from United for not communicating to its members clearly. United has the burden of informing its members of changes in contracts, not the hospital, and from the previous posts, it sounds like WakeMed did what it could to contact past patients who had United Healthcare -- that is a good steward.

    Again, my condolences to the Boykin family.

  • chicklet_troy Mar 25, 2007

    Why would there be any class action or any other lawsuit against Wakemed?

    Wakemed was honoring the contract it had in place with UHC. UHC chose to opt out of the contract....period. Let's just remember the facts here before throwing Wakemed under the bus with UHC. Wakemed chose not to be bullied and stuck by the contract signed by both parties, UHC tried to play hardball renegotiating a done deal and Wakemed called their bluff.

    It's a shame that UHC subscribers are the ones taking it in the tail but perhaps do your research and check out UHC's history regarding customer service. A simple Google search regarding UHC will set you straight.

  • catwoman Mar 24, 2007

    It's too bad that no one seems to see the big picture that is being caused by this childishness between the hospital systems of Wake Med and United Health Care. How many subscribers of UHC are being impacted negitavely by this issue? THOUNDS!!! Not all doctors are credentialed to practice at Rex or DHOR. Additionally, I for one would NOT go to one of the other two choices in Wake County. In the long run, the ones who will suffer the most are the families whose members need and are scheduled for lifesaving surgeries at Wake or one of its satilites and are now being told they have to pay out-of-network charges or go elsewhere. I hope somebody has started a class-action law suit against both UHC and Wake Med.

  • chicklet_troy Mar 24, 2007

    "I went to Wake Med two years ago-- I waited in the emgergency room for 7 hours. When I finally saw someone I told them I was getting a little impatient waiting so long. The nurse looked at me and said "well you didnt have to come here -- you could have gone somewhere else.""

    If you had to wait seven hours to be seen, how much of an emergency was it really?

  • Hambone Mar 23, 2007

    jeneric43 said..."Others offer lower wait times because......they have a hospital rep going thru the emergency room and sending people home to urgent cares who are not truly emergencies" You are a friggin idiot if you believe that and WakeMed should fire your sorry butt for spreading such lies about other facilities. That's a flat out lie and you know it! Plus it's a COBRA/JCAHO violation...folks, this person has no idea what they're talking about. And yes...I am a medical professional who has first hand knowledge of the workings inside every emergency room in Wake County!

  • grenlyn1 Mar 23, 2007

    I don't blame the couple for this misunderstanding. I blame the media, hospital and the insurance companies for not making it clear to the public that "in the case of an emergency, care would be given to ANY patient at Wake Med". I read the articles and heard the news reports and at NO time did ANYONE indicate that care would be given to patients at Wake Med. I recall the reports saying "NO" to United HealthCare Insurance participants. I think Jackie Boykin had every reason to believe she had no choice but to go to Rex Hospital. My heart goes out to her with the knowledge that this reporter saw a need to let the public know. It adds insult to injury. Let's put accountability where it lays. The article should have read, "Had all parties involved had made it clear to patients, this man would still be alive today!" "God Bless you and your family Jackie."

  • bookfan1251 Mar 23, 2007

    In response to the young parent, under employed and in college....and all others! Regarding hospitals writing off costs for "indigents"..Not in my county. Further, my son who has no insurance, severe asthma, and is under-employed was told by an ER employee not to return unless he could pay for his ER visit.

  • kdajldf Mar 23, 2007

    I don't know if it's been said or not (I'm not looking through all these posts), but the split between WakeMed and UHC was because of the costs.

    This is a sad tragedy and I feel bad; but worry about the costs second and the person's life first. WakeMed will extemely lower your bill or you could find out the insurance company would pay.

    Because of the reason UHC split from WakeMed, I would have to say that they have the best interests of their patients in heart. While they are also worrying about how much they spend, the less they spend, the less you spend.

  • sleepyj Mar 23, 2007

    Drop it........soon enough the other Raleigh hospitals contracts will be up with United and just watch they won't get renewed either. This is NOT an isolated WakeMed issue I assure you. Their contract for renewal just came up first and brought the issue out in the media!!

  • me-in-raeford Mar 23, 2007

    oh and jeneric...no thank you on that resume...trust me I wouldn't for a second consider employing someone with your lack of customer service skills to work with or for me...

    Keep in mind...while you've been calling me stupid and telling me I don't know what I'm talking about...You have no idea what I do for a living...

    I could be your boss...I could be the financial officer for a large hospital...or the an accountant specializing in medical system finances!!!!!

    Either way...we have our fill of rude telephone operators here...

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