This article was originally published by March Forward!
Ron Flanagan, a Vietnam veteran, was in the final preparations for
receiving stem cell treatment for bone marrow cancer when he found out
that he had been dropped by his health insurance carrier for a two-cent
error in an electronic premium payment.
Instead of putting the correct amount in for $328.69, Ron’s wife
Frances inadvertently keyed in the amount for $328.67. For two pennies,
Ceridian Cobra Services dropped the Flanagans’ coverage at a
life-and-death juncture in Ron’s life.
Ceridian, as it turns out, is not even a health insurer, but rather a
third-party administrator that coordinates human resource services
including health insurance to other companies. In other words, Ceridian
is part of another parasitic layer in a health care system where profits
trump a person’s health.
Ron Flanagan and his family are sure that his cancer is a direct
result of exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Agent Orange
is a highly toxic defoliant that was part of the U.S. military’s
chemical warfare program dubbed Operation Ranch Hand.
During the war, the United States dropped 20 million gallons of Agent
Orange with the intent to defoliate and sicken an entire nation. Almost
5 million Vietnamese were exposed to Agent Orange, resulting in 400,000
deaths and 500,000 horrific birth defects. This uncompensated legacy
continues to cause health problems in Vietnam over 35 years later.
In the early part of 2010, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
finally opened the door for some 200,000 additional soldiers who, like
Ron Flanagan, have illnesses from the dioxin-laced herbicide, to receive
benefits. Those benefits are too late for many.
While the family was trying unsuccessfully to bring Ceridian Cobra to
its senses, Ron Flanagan’s story was going viral on the web and
sparking public outrage, forcing Ceridian Cobra to quickly reinstate his
coverage. When ABC News contacted Bert Valdez, Ceridian’s chief
commercial officer, he was asked if the Flanagans were going to be
receiving an apology along with the reinstatement. Valdez’s responded:
“For what specifically? We followed normal procedure and we were in
complete compliance with the law.”