By National Nurses Movement –

It’s hard for most of us to imagine a lifestyle supported by a $73 million retirement bonus. It’s even harder to imagine a whole nation’s healthcare controlled by those who have benefited so wildly from denying healthcare to those who need it.

But Cigna’s Edward Hanway knows well what it feels like to rest in the lap of luxury thanks to all those profits he helped secure as he led one of the nation’s for-profit insurance giants through some very successful times. And as we lumber toward a new piece of healthcare legislation with new promises of expanded health insurance coverage and mandate for both individuals and employers to purchase private health insurance plans, insurance companies will have even more control over our healthcare – and the denials of care that make companies like Cigna pay out such obscene bonuses.

According to CIGNA’s press releases, Hanway had served in leadership capacities with America’s Health Insurance Plans, and the Alliance for Health Reform. “He is an outspoken advocate at the national level for greater transparency regarding health care quality and cost information available to consumers and a strong proponent of national quality standards for health care providers. He is recognized as a leader in the effort to improve the quality, accessibility and affordability of health care in the United States. Through the years, Hanway has been active in a wide range of issues and initiatives associated with health, education and international business.”

BEFORE you read further…National Nurses United, the new national union for RNs, is asking nurses and patients to demand Congress remove the mandates that would force Americans to purchase products from the CIGNA’s of the world. Call Rep. Pelosi (415-556-4862) and Sen. Reid (702-388-5020) and tell them to strip this bill of the CIGNA-mandates immediately!

Under Hanway’s leadership, Cigna also did what for-profit insurance companies do so very well to enhance the profits that become multi-million dollar bonuses. They denied care to thousands upon thousands of policyholders, and the company profits were protected.

But some of those denied care died as a result. Nataline Sarkisyan was but one. She was 17. She needed a new liver. Cigna said no until enough nurses and enough of the family’s friends and neighbors – and a few thousand concerned citizens – protested loudly enough to make some news coverage. Then Cigna reversed itself. Even in the face of Nataline’s impending death, Hanway did what he felt was best to do to minimize damage to Cigna – not to save a teenager’s life. The negative PR became a bit much. Wendell Potter, who worked as Cigna’s communications director at the time, has said since that he watched the whole mess unfold and was one of the people advising Cigna’s leadership to reverse the denial.

But the reversal came too late. Nataline died. December 20, 2007. And for her mom and dad, no Christmas will ever be the same. The Sarkisyan’s buried their only daughter while wrapped in the love and support of their Armenian community, the nurses of the California Nurses Association and thousands of bloggers and others who tried to somehow ease the unimaginable.

Nurses do not want to stand in hospital lobbies protesting with terrified families who are begging insurance companies to approve care. Nurses do not want to stand next to mothers and fathers, brothers and aunts at funerals for those who might have been saved if not for the delays and denials of care that insurance companies find so routine. Nurses want to care for patients, and nurses wanted to care for Nataline. Instead, they were left with caring for those left behind.

This year, on December 20, 2009, the Sarkisyan’s marked the anniversary with a church service and reception at their home. Liz Jacobs, RN, attended and recalled all the emotions of two years ago as they co-mingled with the images of a family very much still grieving.

The church was filled with hundreds of friends – almost all dressed in pink, Nataline’s favorite color, except for Hilda Sarkisyan, Nataline’s mother, who wore all black. Many thought back to that day two years ago when the family stood protesting and fighting in a hospital lobby – begging for their little girl to have a chance at life – rather then being at her bedside in what would be her final hours. Many felt grief about how close they all came to saving her life. Close, but so far.

Doctors gave Nataline a 60 percent chance at life if she had the transplant. As Hilda often reminds us all, “Cigna gave Nataline a zero percent chance.”

No doubt, Edward Hanway’s family did not spend that day or that holiday season as the Sarkisyan family did nor did they spend this December 20th in the same fashion. Retiring with $73 million makes scenarios like that forced on the Sarkisyan’s lives much less likely.

At this year’s memorial service, RN Jacobs noticed Nataline’s friends who had been so supportive and so involved in the protests to save their friend when they were all 17 years old are now moving on with their lives. All them are going off to college and starting their lives at 19 while Nataline’s family will never know if Nataline would have been in fashion design school, as she dreamed, or on to another aspiration.

Yet in the midst of her grief, Hilda Sarkisyan stands firm in telling all in her community and all she touches that left as things are right now, the insurance companies will continue to do this to more and more Nataline’s. There is nothing that will stop them.

Not in these United States and not in the highly touted health reform legislation. Our healthcare system is not the best in the world. This chart from National Geographic gives us more reason, as if we needed more, to worry for our patients and for our nation.

But today we mostly wonder what that great, big bonus might have done in terms of healthcare. If Nataline’s liver transplant was to cost an estimated $70,000, one-tenth of one-percent of Hanway’s bonus would have covered Nataline’s chance to live. And that’s not the company’s total profit by any means. That’s just Hanway’s retirement bonus. $73 million dollars. More than 1,000 Nataline’s might have been saved by that $73 million.

Nurses know there is a better way to spend healthcare dollars than on obscene retirement bonuses. And until there are no more hospital lobby protests or premature funerals for patients who might have lived if not for the profit and the greed of the insurance CEOs, retired CEOs and shareholders who do not stand at the bedsides of those to whom they deny, the nurses will fight.

6 Comments

  1. Andy Tyler on January 9, 2010 at 4:26 am

    I disagree with dropping the insurance mandate. The bills emerging from congress are the result of one year of debate, protest, healthcare rallies, and lobbying. (not to mention the previous 60 years or so) It is the best compromise that can be for the moment. I feel that the mandates should be stronger. Exempting preexisting conditions for coverage is “good” business. (bad humanitarianism) To continue business with the increased expenses of all inclusive coverage, the Cignas of the world need to increase revenue or go bankrupt covering no one. The choice is either raising premiums or increasing the risk pool. I paid premiums for 3 months before my emergency appendectomy.(39 years old) I am a tremendous net loss to the state of Indiana public insurance plan, and the hospital that performed the surgery. If I would have purchased insurance at age 16, or had been subsidized from the beginning of employment, my surgery would have been paid for. I am 100% for single payer, universal healthcare coverage, but it isn’t there yet. The opponents are not going to back down anymore than the proponents. Until we finally get single payer/universal everyone needs to participate in some form of insurance. Thats why government insurance works because we don’t have a choice in paying taxes. Everyone pays for healthcare services whether you use them or not. Whether insurance is public or private, healthy people are paying for sick people. The more healthy people that participate (i.e. mandates) the lower the cost for everyone.



  2. Allen on January 18, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Andy you don’t need to be concerned about breaking the bank for the insurance industry because you only paid into the system 3 months before using it. You can thank people like me rather than the insurance industry. I worked in higher education for 20 years and my employers provided premium coverage. All throughout those 20 years my son and I were healthy as could be and rarely used the coverage. All total we may have had 15 to 25 doctor office visits throughout the 20 years and 4 to 5 prescription drugs. A couple of years ago I lost my job and thus my coverage. I could use the coverage now due to stress illnesses brought on by the loss of income. Even though I contributed to the system for 20 years, I now have no coverage and no access to affordable health care. Thank me and others like me who paid in for years but now that we need it the most have no access to the system. Your insurance provider did not pay for your appendectomy from their profits. They paid for it from collected premiums that will never provide care for those who contributed. Neither the house nor the Senate bills address this disparity. They only require insurers to continue coverage if you can pay. If you loose your job you can’t pay and so these pseudo bills do nothing to address this problem. In my current situation I will have no choice but to choose to pay the 2% to 3% of income penalty rather than pay for premiums that provide little in coverage and offer nothing except high deductibles and high co-pays. Most of the uninsured will likely make this same choice. I probably will never qualify for insurance premium assistance as I have rental income – not a lot of cash flow because the rents just pay the mortgages. Nevertheless, in terms of medicaid eligibility the rents are income and the property assets, therefore, I don’t qualify for health coverage through medicaid and medicare is many years away. The only thing the mandate will do for me is to create another form of stress without providing access to health care.



  3. Allen on January 18, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    To quote the infamous, “I say thanks but no thanks to the pseudo health care reform bills that go no where.”



  4. Rosen Myer on January 20, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    CIGNA HealthCare as well as United HealthCare all stink! All of their CEO’s make in excess of $70 million. United HealthCare CEO made $70 Billion in bonus along inn 2005! They get this money simply because they deny claims or pay them at a lesser benefit. It is “legalized extortion.” People don’t realize that they pay their premiums and pay bills that their insurance company should have paid. I get denials all the time on claims where the insurance companies are not paying the correct amount. Thier “usual and customary” is a bunch of total bunk. These CEO’s make more money in bonuses than the banks that we just bailed out. Now we are going to be taxed on this new healthcare reform bologne. We are already overpying by a trillion per week claims that we should not pay. I work denials and I know that people are ripped off daily simply because these insurance companies are exempt from the law!

    If any of the public would like some help with thier denials feel free to send me an email. I will help at no charge. Like I said, 90% of the people that have insurance are being ripped off!!!!!!!



  5. Robert Roselle on January 22, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    MEDICARE FOR ALL



  6. Helen on November 29, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Private insurance companies need to get their hands off of public tax dollars. Seriously, we need to have Canadian type health insurance administered by public employees. If you don’t want it, then take YOUR OWN MONEY and buy into CIGNA. Medicare/Medicaid should be like the Canadian plan. I am sick of these private insurance companies ripping everyone off, breaking the law, and the loot goes to the people on top.