TikTok helps expose flaws of health-care system – Wednesday Journal

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Oak Park resident Aaron McManus recently exposed the inadequacies of the American health-care system to task, racking up almost a million views on TikTok in the process. The non-binary father (whose pronoun is “they”) took to the video-sharing service after receiving a $40,000 bill for the removal of a football-sized cancerous tumor — a bill their health insurance provider refused to cover.
“I feel like I’m being treated like a customer who’s complaining because I didn’t get enough ketchup on my hamburger,” they said of their insurance provider. “It’s actually like, literally, my life and death in the balance here.”
McManus, who has stage 4 cancer, was not expecting the story to go viral when they shared it on TikTok through the account “aaronwontshutup,” but it caught the attention of hundreds of thousands of sympathetic viewers — and in the end got the insurance provider to back down.
“Wow. They make it as difficult as possible,” TikTok user Luke Neal responded to McManus’ Oct. 22 post. “Cruel how the strategy is to wear us down.”
McManus only took to TikTok after the traditional route of disputing a health insurance claim proved fruitless. The 41-year-old’s story began last June when McManus was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma. A massive, 15-centimeter-long malignant tumor was found on a kidney, which would have to be removed surgically.
McManus had gotten the procedure authorized through Elevance Health, known at the time as Anthem Blue Cross. They underwent the operation June 24 at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital and stayed another day in the hospital at the physician’s request.
Come August, Anthem Blue Cross declined to cover the expense, deeming the operation and subsequent hospital stay not “medically necessary.” McManus was on the hook for everything from operating room services ($11,602) to anesthesia ($6,305), according to the claim, which McManus shared with Wednesday Journal.
“So I called them and was like, ‘Hey, I’m assuming this was a booboo,’” McManus said.
An appeal was filed over the phone on Aug. 3. That appeal resulted in Anthem Blue Cross supporting its original decision to deny coverage at the recommendation of a family physician, who reviewed McManus’ records in the appeal.
McManus was notified of this determination in a letter from the insurance company, dated Sept. 2. The letter stated that extended hospital stays are only deemed medically necessary when such severe problems as infection, pain and bleeding exist.
“The information we have does not show you had these or other severe problems,” the letter reads. “For this reason, the request for you to remain in the hospital on and after June 25, 2022 is denied as not medically necessary.”
That reasoning cut no ice with McManus, who took the fight to TikTok. McManus’ first post on TikTok about Anthem Blue Cross was on Sept. 8. The video received roughly 40,000 views that day — and the count continued to rise. Several concerned TikTok users flooded the comment section demanding accountability from the insurance company, tagging Anthem’s account. Hundreds of people called and sent emails to Anthem as well, according to McManus.
“I was really surprised that that many people stopped scrolling and actually called.”
McManus got a call from Anthem shortly after posting the video and they said a billing error had been made on the part of the physician. McManus also received a formal letter from the insurance company that the correct paperwork had been received. All McManus was responsible for paying was the $61.32 copay.
The letter was dated Oct. 21, just two weeks after a follow up CT scan found six malignant nodules in McManus’ lungs. The cancer had spread.
No apology was extended to McManus in Anthem’s letter, a copy of which was provided to Wednesday Journal. Nor did the letter explain why the error was not uncovered during the initial appeal. Instead, the letter thanked McManus for their “patience.”
Unsatisfied with that response, McManus took to TikTok again. In a video posted Oct. 22, they blasted Anthem for its lack of compassion and condemned the entire American health-care industry for prioritizing profits over people’s health. 
“That lack of empathy is an institutional problem,” they said.
The video again went viral, surpassing the view count of McManus’ first Anthem-related TikTok. As of Nov. 21, the video has close to a million views and over 7,000 comments, proving the power of social media.
Representatives of Anthem were unavailable to be interviewed. However, the insurance company apologized to McManus in a statement.
“We’re sorry this caused stress in an already stressful time, and our care team continues to be in contact and work closely with Mr. McManus to guide him and help ensure he has access to the care, information and answers he needs,” the statement reads while also maintaining that the insurance company is not at fault for the mistake that caused the company to originally deny coverage to McManus.
“Due to incorrect details provided by his physician, Mr. McManus was sent a bill based on this inaccurate information,” the statement says.
Placing the blame squarely on the doctor does not sit well with McManus, who called the move “tacky.” And while they have no problem with completing insurance paperwork before finalization of a claim, McManus called it “absurd” that Anthem would expect them to pay $40,000 because the insurance company did not receive the correct documentation.
“But the reality is that they didn’t bring up this paperwork issue at all; they denied the claim and said that was their final decision,” said McManus. “Until the TikTok.”


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