The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Lacy MacAuley, (202) 445-4692,

Robert Malin, (401) 364-5963, 

'I Was Denied a Bone Marrow Transplant and Risked Arrest for Health Care for All'

A cancer patient’s story of insurance company denial of care; he may finally get an answer today


Robert Darling, 59, risked arrest yesterday when he entered the
Warwick, Rhode Island, offices of UnitedHealth insurance company with
other health care reform supporters and asked for answers regarding his
denial of a lifesaving bone marrow transplant. The supporters occupied
the lobby of UnitedHealth for over an hour, but Darling was willing to
wait longer. He's been waiting for five years for an answer from

[View a VIDEO of yesterday's occupation of UnitedHealth lobby.]

Darling is a cancer patient and resident of Providence, Rhode
Island, with a smile that's contagious. Darling was diagnosed with
multiple mylenoma, a form of cancer, five years ago. He received
chemotherapy, which his insurance company, UnitedHealth, paid for.
However, his cancer had advanced to the stage at which a bone marrow
transplant was the only thing that could extend his life.

Darling was told by his doctors in Rhode Island that UnitedHealth
insurance would not let them proceed with the bone marrow transplant.
Darling appealed the insurance company's decision, writing and calling
for months, which gave his cancer time to worsen. His weight had gone
from 180 to 135 by the time he started calling every UnitedHealth
employee in the phone book. Finally a secretary gave him a hint to go
to a Boston hospital that would give him a transplant without
UnitedHealth's approval.

Darling packed up his car and drove to the Boston hospital
immediately, where doctors told him that they had a federal program to
allow them to do certain transplants. They checked him over and advised
that he urgently needed a transplant if he was expected to live. He was
able to get his transplant that had the potential to extend his life
2-5 years. That was three years ago, and Darling is back up to about
170 pounds and feeling fine. UnitedHealth has never returned his calls,
and they have not covered the follow-up treatments he's needed
following his surgery.

UnitedHealth passed the cost of Darling's lifesaving bone marrow
transplant on to the federal government, but they are still denying him
coverage for necessary follow-up treatment. Darling is currently paying
for this treatment out of pocket, paying over $4,000 per year on his

"If I had waited for UnitedHealth to call me, I have no doubt I
would be dead right now, all because they were trying to protect their
profits," says Darling. "We need a system based on patients, not
profits. We need health care for all!"

Darling risked arrest yesterday by entering the offices of
UnitedHealth with other supporters of health care for all to demand a
reply to the many requests that he had sent them, and to ask why they
never covered his bone marrow transplant and were refusing to cover his
follow-up treatment. A UnitedHealth communications director came out to
the lobby and promised that she would have an answer for them by 5 PM