"My name is Officer Aaron Robbins. I am a sixteen-year veteran of the High Point Police Department as well as a husband and father. Some years back I was diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD). I have worked as an officer with DDD for many years with an excellent attendance record and above average evaluations for work performance. My condition is painful and at times difficult, but I have always managed to show up and do my job and serve the community members where I work.
On April 5th, 2018 I injured myself while doing farm work at my home. Initially, I went to the Emergency Department and was referred to an orthopedic surgeon. I was in a great deal of pain at the time. The surgeon immediately stated that I needed surgery. I was concerned by how quickly the surgeon said I needed surgery and the fact that he did not tell me what type of surgery he intended to perform. I decided to seek a second opinion. In the meanwhile, the surgeon tried many different conservative treatments to help me with my injury. None of these treatments worked. I remained in pain and on bed rest for many weeks. All the while my condition worsened.
I met with a second surgeon just to be on the safe side. This surgeon is a neurosurgeon. The neurosurgeon reviewed my case and said that he believed that we should try to run more test before doing surgery. This put me at ease. This neurosurgeon ran another test and stated that he believed I needed surgery also. He stated that I actually needed two levels of my spine repaired. The neurosurgeon stated that the orthopedic surgeon had already exhausted the conservative treatment methods so he would line up the surgery. That is when everything went downhill. Four business days before my pre-operation appointment with the hospital my health insurance company (provided to me through employment) denied the surgery. They stated verbally the surgery was not medically necessary (despite the fact I was on bed rest and in severe pain and had received the recommendation from two different medical professionals). My wife and I were very confused by this. Two different surgeons had already stated I needed surgery but the insurance company was now stating that the surgery was not medically necessary. All the time I am in pain and my condition continued to worsen.
My doctor called me a few days later and stated verbally that the insurance company was telling him the reason I could not have the surgery was that my health insurance policy stated that with DDD I could only have one level of my spine repaired. My doctor completed a peer to peer review with the medical director of my insurance company but the surgery was still denied. My condition had gotten so bad that I had to go back to the Emergency Department for pain. I was still on bed rest and was having to be transported to doctor visits by wheelchair because I could no longer walk due to the amount of pain.
The insurance company then told us verbally that the surgery was being denied because it was an experimental surgery. We have documentation from The International Institution for Spinal Fusion stating that this is not an experimental surgery and that this is actually a suggested correction for DDD.
My wife and I then filed an appeal with the insurance company. Another peer to peer review was completed with the neurosurgeon and a different medical director of my insurance company. The insurance company still denied the surgery.
My wife and I have contacted Governor Cooper and Senator Burr who put us in contact with the Department of Insurance and we are working with them. We have contacted the Better Business Bureau. I have contacted an attorney who told us that we needed to follow the appeals process. I have also contacted Tedd Budd, Trudy Wade, and John Faircloth. We have worked with my doctor who has since referred me to Duke University for another opinion until we can get the surgery approved. The doctor at Duke wanted to try an alternative to surgery since the insurance was denying the surgery. He suggested a spinal stimulator for pain. The insurance company denied the spinal stimulator as well. They stated the reason I could not have the stimulator is because I have not had a failed back surgery. At this point I believe I am being denied medical care by my insurance company. I have doctors willing to try to help me but my insurance company will not allow them to.
It disturbs me that I have paid an untold amount of money to my insurance company over the years. I have worked as a Police Officer for sixteen years. I am a hard-working police officer and am very active in the communities I police. I have no way of knowing the number of lives I have touched and help in sixteen years of contributing to society. I, unfortunately, have a chronic disease that has resulted in an acute injury. This situation has left me bedridden for a total of twenty-three weeks (as of this date). The first ten weeks of the injury I was able to walk for about two or three minutes at a time but was not able to sit at all due to the amount of pain. Not being able to walk or sit prevents me from doing a desk job at the agency where I work. This means I am rapidly using all the sick time I have accumulated over the past sixteen years. When I exhaust my sick and vacation time I am in danger of being medically retired. I am in so much pain that I do not sleep but about two hours per night. I hurt so bad that by the time I get from my bed to the restroom I cannot do what I need to do. If I need to get to a doctor appointment I have to be transported by wheelchair. By the time I get to the doctor appointments and back home I am in excruciating pain for about two days after.
My wife is a full-time nurse and mother. She was also in school to get her bachelor’s degree in nursing but has had to postpone school to care for me. She is not physically strong enough to carry me but somehow digs deep and finds the strength to get me from the bed to my wheelchair and then from the wheelchair into the car for all my many appointments. She is exhausted and stressed. As am I.
I just don’t see how the insurance company can tell an accomplished neurosurgeon that he is not capable of caring for his patient and that the surgery he knows will help me is experimental. All the while my life has stopped and I am in pain day and night, unable to walk, unable to sit up. The surgeon has identified through established medical testing what is wrong with my spine and has stated he believes he can fix my spine well enough that I will not be living in my bed but the insurance company says, “No you can’t have it.”
Every time I talk to the insurance company they say that they hate I am going through this and they hate that I’m in so much pain but they continue to deny the surgery and other treatment that could potentially help me. To make things worse I have paid them an unknown amount of money so that if something like this happened I would be “insured” that I could potentially be fixed.
My hope is that by reading this you will see there is a story to tell. I would like for the public to hear my story of how the CEO’s of these insurance companies are making their millions off the desperation of the sick and injured. There were a lot of similar stories on the Better Business Bureau Website.
I just want to get my back fixed, get back to work, supporting my family and serving the community that I have invested in sixteen years of my life in."
The reason I am asking for your help is because my sick and vacation time runs out soon and I will be without an income at least until I can get to a standard of life that will allow me to return to work.
- James Vervaecke
- Travis Thompson
- Dennis McCrary
- Tim Winters
- Jeremy Brown
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