This Gastroparesis Patient Made a “Splash” After Being Denied Insurance Coverage

According to a story from Buzzfeed News, Comedian Sandy Honig, best known for writing and starring in Three Busy Debras, was recently diagnosed with gastroparesis, a rare disease that impacts the digestive system. Resulting in delayed digestion and emptying of the stomach, the disease can have serious quality of life impacts. There are a number of treatment approaches that have varying degrees of success. Sandy was hoping to treat gastroparesis by injecting the pyloric sphincter, which links the stomach and small intestine, with Botox. In theory, this should improve the ability of food to pass, but her insurance provider, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, didn’t think so. Sandy was denied coverage for the procedure. 

As a result, Sandy decided to take drastic action.

About Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is a medical condition in which the stomach becomes partially paralyzed. This causes food to remain in the stomach for an abnormally long time; in fact, food may stop passing through the digestive tract entirely. There are a number of potential causes of gastroparesis, such as autonomic neuropathy, abdominal surgery, cigarette smoking, prior infection, and hypochlorhydria. The nerve responsible for normal movement of food from the stomach is called the vagus nerve, and any damage to it can cause gastroparesis. The condition often appears alongside other diseases, such as scleroderma, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and mitochondrial disease. Symptoms include a feeling of fullness after eating very little food, vomiting, abdominal pain, nausea, night sweats, muscle weakness, weight loss, palpitations, stomach spasms, and heartburn. Treatment may include several different medications, changes in diet, or procedures such as gastric electrical stimulation or sleeve gastrectomy. To learn more about gastroparesis, click here.

Spilling Her Guts for Healthcare

For Sandy, gastroparesis triggers vomiting practically every time she eats literally anything. So she showed up at the Anthem headquarters in Los Angeles and started blowing chunks all over the place. She filmed the entire spectacle and uploaded it to YouTube. While Sandy’s action has gotten hundreds of thousands of views across the web and has drawn attention to the excessive power that insurance providers have in determining the health decisions and outcomes for US citizens, Anthem has yet to change its decision.

The company cites a lack of medical evidence surrounding the treatment, but nevertheless suggests that Sandy attempt to formally appeal the decision.

“I guess now is the time for me to admit it IS cosmetic…I just turned 30 and want the inside of my stomach to look younger.” – Sandy Honig

The company, in a show of force, also called the police to Sandy’s residence to perform a “wellness check.”

“It was such a lovely surprise to get a visit from two men armed with guns and batons in my own home…It’s nice to know that even though you won’t give me the healthcare I need, you still care.”

Unfortunately, Sandy is one of countless US citizens living with a rare disease who struggle to get treatments and procedures approved for insurance coverage, often due to a lack of awareness of rare disease treatment approaches. The deep flaws of the healthcare system are strongly magnified in the experiences of patients like Sandy.

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