Family's HMO Fight Ends Happily
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home / healthcare / in the media

KRON-TV Website
Sep 04, 2002

by Staff Reporter

Family's HMO Fight Ends Happily

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) -- The news conference had been called by consumer advocacy groups to shine a public spotlight on the Bennett family's plight.

John and Alicia Bennett's children, two-year-old Tommy, four-year-old Hunter and six-year-old Ciara suffer from Sanfilippo syndrome, a rare genetic disorder usually fatal by age 13. The Bennetts found that a doctor at Duke University was performing a treatment using stem cell transplants that could prolong the lives of patients with the rare disease.

Six-year-old Ciara is too old for the procedure. Tommy and Hunter are not. But Kaiser, the Bennett's HMO, denied coverage for the treatment which would cost $600,000 per child saying there was no conclusive evidence that the treatment would help.

Just moments before the news conference was to start, a sudden development.

"Kaiser V.P. called us in to the first floor of the headquarters and made an announcement.  He had a letter that said Kaiser, although admitting no wrongdoing, agreed to pay a million dollars contribution to Duke University of North Carolina to provide treatment to the two young boys.

Those here believe it was the threat of bad publicity that forced Kaiser's hand. Kaiser's press release was carefully worded.

The money will be donated it says, for research to Duke University into a cure for the rare disease. The statement does not say whether the money can or cannot be used to treat the Bennett children.

But legal speak aside, its clear the money will be used for the Bennetts without setting a precedent.

"I'm still speechless. I still don't know what to say other than thank you," Alicia Bennett said.

The Bennetts don't care how you interpret the statement. They got what they wanted.

"They still disagree this is a good procedure but they've gone ahead and decided to help us get it done under the auspices of doing research, so there's more than one way to skin a cat. Either way, the kids will get the help they need," said John Bennett.

And the message the Bennetts want to send to others who may face similar fights with their HMOs:  "Just don't stop fighting, and don't take no for an answer."
Copyright 2002 KRON 4 News.  All Rights Reserved

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