A popular TikTokker says a health insurance company refused to pay for a machine to help her disabled friend eat, and her thousands of followers are furious.
“This is not my typical content, but Blue Cross Blue Shield is screwing over my friend Kevin, and you need to see what they’re doing to him,” Olivia Mancuso says in a TikTokvideo she posted on Thursday.
Ms Mancuso, a former TV reporter, then shows footage of Kevin Sullivan, 31, eating a meal with the help of an Obi robot, which uses a mechanical arm to feed him. Mr Sullivan, who has very limited mobility in both his arms, explains in simple terms why he needs the device.
“There’s only one reason why I need this,” he says, lifting his right arm a couple of inches. “That’s as far as my arm goes up. It’s pretty plain and simple.”
Ms Mancuso says the device costs $9,700 without insurance. (Online retailers sell it for anywhere between $6,800 and $13,200.) So Mr Sullivan applied to have his insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, help with the bill. But according to Ms Mancuso, the company refused – twice.
“His insurance company denied his claim for this device because they said there’s ‘no medical necessity,'” the former journalist says, making air quotes with her hands. “He submitted two appeals already to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, and they denied both of them.”
So Ms Mancuso took her friend’s story to TikTok, where her video garnered about 250,000 views in one day. In the comments, viewers expressed their outrage.
“What is the point of insurance at this point?” one wrote. “Who are they helping??”
“Being an adult is realizing how much of a scam insurance is and it’s exhausting,” another commented.
Others related to Mr. Sullivan’s struggle.
“Insurance is a scam,” one viewer wrote. “Blue Cross stopped covering my meds because they’re ‘too expensive.’ Like… that’s why I have the insurance??”
On Friday, Mr. Sullivan’s luck changed. He was finally getting the Obi device, he said – but not from his insurer.
“The update is that my employer is now paying for it,” Mr Sullivan said in a new video on Ms Mancuso’s account. “That’s right, DAT Freight & Analytics decided to fund the robot in full. My manager actually just placed the order.”
As he announced the good news, Mr Sullivan thanked his new fans on TikTok.
“I just want to thank everyone for all the support,” he said. “It ended up working out in the end – maybe not as we had hoped, but I’m getting the robot, and that’s what matters, right? We did it.”
The Independent has reached out to Blue Cross Blue Shield for comment.