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State Health Plan problem snags cancer-stricken corrections officer

Posted August 13, 2015

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— Earl Pike has been fighting colon cancer for the past 18 months, and he says the last thing he wants to do now is fight for state insurance benefits to pay his medical bills so he can receive treatment.

Pike is among thousands of state workers and retirees caught in a computer problem with the State Health Plan.

A shift in June to a new vendor, Aon Hewitt, to handle enrollment services and eligibility in the health plan caused the coverage to be listed as "inactive" for new enrollees, recent retirees and anyone with a change in their coverage, officials said. The mistake caused some people, including Pike, to be turned away at doctor's offices and delays in getting prescriptions filled.

Pike, who has worked as a corrections officer at state prisons for 22 years, said he scheduled an appointment six months ago for a Thursday CAT scan to determine if an aneurysm is expanding. His doctor's office called him last week and said they were having a tough time verifying his insurance with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, which processes claims for the State Health Plan.

"According to them, it showed me as an inactive employee," he said Thursday. "I am active right on. I'm still out on sick time."

Pike checked with the human resources office at Pender Correctional Institution on Monday and was assured he had coverage, but the doctor's office said he would either have to pay for the CAT scan himself or cancel his appointment.

"They canceled my appointment to get the scan done on my aneurysm because the computers are saying I have no insurance," he said, adding that he couldn't afford to pay the bill upfront.

After days of calling around, he still hasn't been able to get his insurance verified. He said he has been diagnosed with cancer three times, and his latest cancer appears to have spread to his liver, so he doesn't have the time to miss medical appointments because of a computer glitch.

The State Treasurer's Office, which oversees the health plan for more than 680,000 teachers, state employees, retirees and their dependents, and Aon Hewitt have said they're working to resolve the issue. Blue Cross called Pike and told him someone would call him when it's resolved.

Still, Pike was miffed by Aon Hewitt's characterization of the problem as "an isolated issue impacting a small number of individuals," saying it's a crisis for any state employee or retiree who can't see a doctor or have prescriptions filled.

"It only affected an insignificant number," he said, the irritation rising in his voice. "I'm not insignificant."


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  • Roy Hinkley Aug 14, 2015
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    What do the GA and gov have to do with this?

  • Steve Faulkner Aug 14, 2015
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    The company should have had the ability to handle this BEFORE they were awarded the contract. There should not be a need for a software bug fix.

  • Jeff Herring Aug 14, 2015
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    The GOP gov and assembly are pitiless, incompetent fools.

  • Frances Foster Aug 14, 2015
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    So typical of our state looking for the cheapest vendor to provide services. This is just a travesty for all of those affected. This administration should be ashamed!!

  • H.D. Derrington Aug 14, 2015
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    State government can't just push this off, now the quality of care for this man is compromised. He is paying for their services and they are giving him the run around. State employees are the backbone of our infrastructure, our lives would be harder without them. This is ridiculous and outrageous.

  • Phillip Mozingo Aug 14, 2015
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    So you're saying that people like Mr. Pike who has cancer should just wait for a fix?? Have you ever had cancer? I would consider you part of the problem as well. It's understandable that glitches happen and that time is needed to fix them but for people in his position, time is not an option sir!

  • Cathy Blackman Aug 13, 2015
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    This isn't a glitch.
    This most likely is a political budget issue. Don't you find it odd...also, we have some patients affected as well, but because we know they're retired and that doesn't change, we have not cancelled their appointments.

  • Madison Williams Aug 13, 2015
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    Best of luck to you Mr. Pike. Glitches like this shouldn't happen in the first place, but when they do, there should be a quick fix. I read the sorry comment from the company spokesperson the other day characterizing the problem as some minor inconvenience. Perhaps you should call or email that person. Contact info from a google search:
    PHONE MacKenzie Lucas, 847-442-2995,
    EMAIL mackenzie.lucas@aonhewitt.com

  • Paul Donovan Aug 13, 2015
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    The daily constant harping and phone call making that WRAL is doing is not going to make the software bug get fixed any faster. Depending on the size of the company handling this, it could even delay getting the fix written, tested and rolled out. I am sure they understand the urgency and have people working on it as hard as they can.

  • Johan Summer Aug 13, 2015
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    With all due respect, this has nothing to do with socialized medicine. Don't get me wrong - anytime such a glitch in the insurance system(s) occurs - those insured have to scramble and do lots of extra work, just like the employer. My employer recently changed pharmacy administrators, and there were some bugs to work out. Regarding Mr. Pike, I would hope that his doctors and hospitals would realize that he has had insurance with the State for a number of years, acknowledge that this will get worked out, and provide him with the caret that he needs. They will get paid. Hoping Mr. Pike can get the tests and care he needs asap - and my prayers are with him!