Sloan Kettering cancer patients at risk of losing medical coverage from insurer Cigna



Dozens of cancer patients are scared to death after being told they could lose their medical coverage because of a financial dispute between a prestigious Manhattan specialty hospital and a health insurance giant, The Post has learned.

Patients — including those seriously ill with stage 4 cancer — received letters from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center last month claiming their insurer, Cigna, would soon end their in-network coverage.

Sloan Kettering urged patients to call Cigna to pressure the insurer to maintain coverage while the two sides negotiate payment terms for cancer care services.

“We are writing to let you know that Cigna Healthcare does not plan to renew its contract with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) as an in-network insurance provider in 2024. This will affect your ability to receive care at MSK in the future ,” MSK CEO Lisa DeAngelis said in a Dec. 1 letter sent to patients enrolled in Cigna.

“We are doing everything we can to reach a fair settlement with Cigna. MSK has faced large cost increases in recent years and Cigna is unwilling to help cover those costs. As a result, we have not been able to reach an agreement that allows us to provide the best cancer care at a low cost to our patients.

Cigna will soon drop in-network coverage for cancer patients. TNS
Memorial Sloan Kettering CEO Lisa DeAngelis notified patients of the latest insurance change. Memorial Sloan Kettering

The letter continues, “We encourage you to call Cigna at the number on the back of your insurance card to tell them you want to keep access to MSK.”

A breast cancer survivor said she was shocked and disgusted after reading the letter from Sloane Kettering.

“My heart just stopped. It’s a scary situation to have that burden put on me,” said Leslie, who underwent breast cancer surgery and chemotherapy two years ago and still receives services from doctors at Sloan Kettering.

“This is my health care,” she said.

A friend of another patient, who is currently being treated for stage 4 cancer, said: “This is not about people being treated for a broken arm. This is a vulnerable population.”

Leslie, who asked that her full name not be used, said she felt she and other patients were being treated like pawns.

But Sloan Kettering’s pressure or scare tactics to annoy patients into contacting Cigna appears to have worked.

Sloan Kettering urged patients to call Cigna to pressure the insurer to keep their coverage. Christopher Sadowski

Leslie blamed Cigna — saying that at least Sloan Kettering informed her of the dispute, while Cigna did not.

“Sloan Kettering saved my life. I won’t see them as the villain in this situation. Signa is the villain here,” said Leslie, 33, a mother of two.

“Signa takes care away from health care,” she said.

Rep. Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale), who chairs the Assembly Health Care Committee, said, “unfortunately, these types of letters are all too common.

“Patients are caught in the middle. Both sides have to admit it’s terrible for patients. They have an obligation to craft it so that patients are not used as pawns,” the state lawmaker said.

Pollin said most of the time the hospital and the health insurer work out a pricing agreement for medical bills — but not always.

“If Cigna pulls out of providing coverage at Sloan Kettering, that’s a problem for patients,” Paulin said. “At what point is it fair to tell patients?”

Patients receiving active treatment at the world-renowned cancer center will still be eligible for in-network coverage until at least April 14, 2024. Robert Mechea

Both Sloan Kettering and Cigna declined to say how many patients would be affected if they fail to reach terms on a new contract.

They said the current contract was being extended by one month until February 15 and that a new contract was being worked on.

“Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) has reached a preliminary agreement with Cigna that will allow MSK to remain in network. As a result, we have extended the termination date of the current contract to February 15, 2024, ensuring that patients will continue to have coverage at MSK,” said MSK spokesman John Connolly.

Cigna spokeswoman Madeline Ziomek said, “We have mutually agreed to extend our current contract through February 15th while we work together to finalize a new agreement.”

In a letter to patients, MSK chief DeAngelis said patients receiving active treatment at the world-renowned cancer center will still be eligible for in-network coverage until at least April 14, 2024, and that bone marrow transplants will be covered for a year of treatment.

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