Erika Zak is 38 years old and lives in Portland, Oregon. Four years ago, after the birth of her daughter, Zak was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic colon cancer that had spread to her liver, according to a Sunday profile by CNN. Due to complications from a surgery to remove two tumors, Zak has been suffering from chronic liver failure. If she does not receive a liver transplant this year, she will likely die.
For months, Zak’s health insurer, United Healthcare, declined her request for a new liver, CNN reported. As a last-ditch effort, Zak wrote a letter to the insurance group’s chief executive, pleading with him to cover the life-saving procedure.
Two days after sending her letter, Erika and her husband were told the UHC executive team had received it and that her case was undergoing further review.
Several times, the family said it was told a decision would be made by a certain date; those dates came and went without a decision.
As time wore on, Erika grew ill with a high fever and was hospitalized for several days. It was the fifth time she’d been admitted since February 2, the day Cleveland Clinic doctors approved her for a transplant.
On Instagram, she posted an illustration with the words “waiting, waiting, waiting” on a pink backdrop with black crosses.
After months spent waiting—and receiving more denials from the company—Zak’s family received some unexpected news: Without explanation, United Healthcare reversed its decision and said it would cover Zak’s liver transplant.
It’s great that Zak will finally be able to receive the life-saving care she needs. That said, no one should have to go through months of torturous uncertainty. No one should have to literally plead for their life with a company that took in $10.6 billion in profits last year to cover a roughly $200,000 procedure.
If only there were some other way our government could provide healthcare to its citizenry—perhaps a system that is both more equitable and humane while also being more efficient by cutting down on bloated administrative costs?
The next time someone cracks, “Oh, so you’re going to move to Cuba???” show them this story and ask if this is really the system they want.