Under the Hood

Judge Rips UnitedHealthcare For Denying Cancer Treatments Of Insured Patients

A federal judge recused himself from hearing a class action lawsuit against UnitedHealthcare for denying cancer treatments to insured patients. He claimed that the insurance company’s gesture was purely immoral.

A class action lawsuit against UnitedHealthcare was filed before U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola last month. The issue of the case was the insurance company’s denial to treat its insured cancer patients with proton beam therapy. The company found the treatment to be costly and an “experimental” option, as first reported by CNN.

The judge revealed in his recusal that he had battled prostate cancer and was recommended by his doctors to do proton beam therapy because it was a better choice than radiation treatment. He also claimed that one of his friends who was diagnosed with cancer was also refused the proton beam radiation at the MD Anderson Cancer. His friend had to pay $150,000 after the insurance company’s refusal of the treatment and promised to pay back the amount only upon threat of litigation.

The judge noted in his recusal that proton radiation therapy is not an experimental treatment and the company’s refusal to offer that option to its insured patients is “immoral and barbaric.”

Instead of responding to the judge’s statement, UnitedHealthcare changed its policies and allowed the availability of the proton radiation treatment to more patients. The modification afforded the treatment as an option for prostate cancer and claimed that it is a proven method that treats cancer like traditional radiation.

According to experts of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), proton radiation therapy is more expensive than traditional radiation that costs $100,000 on average. Back in 2017, ASTRO said that proton beam therapy should be covered by their insurance. But according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, however, there is a need for further research on the effectiveness of proton radiation therapy to patients suffering from lung cancer and head and neck cancers due to lack of evidence.

ASTRO’s vice chairman Dr. William Hatsell claimed that if proton therapy were more available and become the less expensive option in treating cancer, then more insured patients would opt for it.

Cancer treatment A federal judge condemned UnitedHealthcare for denying cancer treatments to insured patients, marking the act as 'immoral and barbaric'. Darko Stojanovic/Pixabay

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