After her insurance company denied her coverage for a stomach bug that causes frequent vomiting, Sandy Honig decided to appeal the decision through an informal process.
The comedian – best known for co-creating the show “Three Busy Debras” on HBO Max – uploaded a video, which has since gone viral, showing him vomiting outside an insurance company building. Several times.
“Well, no one is going to take my letter, but they said I can send it and leave it with any notes,” Honig said in the video, before opening the envelope and throwing it inside.
His “complaint” may not have worked, but the viral issue has sparked an online conversation about what many Americans have to go through to get affordable health care.
Honig, 30, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But online she has been talking about her condition, gastroparesis, which affects her stomach muscles and prevents her stomach from emptying properly.
It makes him vomit almost everything he eats, he said in a tweetand now manages to eat “slowly simple meals throughout the day.”
One treatment that has helped her, she said in her YouTube video, is getting Botox injections into the pyloric sphincter, the muscle that controls the movement of partially digested food from the stomach to the small intestine.
He said the insurance provider, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, deemed the procedure unnecessary. Since Botox relief takes several months, Honig said she has been paying out of pocket to continue treatment.
His video, which he filmed in January, is posted here Instagram, Twitter and YouTube On Monday, he begins by writing a letter appealing the decision from Anthem. He then tries to deliver it to the company’s office in Woodland Hills, California. After being denied entry because he didn’t have a badge, Honig turns on his heel, walks out of the building and vomits outside its doors.
He continues to vomit in parking lots several times in the video, horrifying passers-by.
Honig says Anthem sent police to his home after he filmed the video in front of the company’s building.
He also showed the text of a police report dated January 19, which stated that the Los Angeles Police Department “conducted a check.” The report included the term “poss 5150,” California’s mental health statute. He also posted a selfie with a policeman in the background.
An Anthem representative did not comment on Honig’s claim that the company sent police to his home after the incident.
However, the representative said, the company’s recommendations are “based on evidence-based medicine that uses information from clinical groups, leading peer-reviewed medical journals and opinions from medical professionals across the country.”
“We want to make sure Ms. Honig is getting the right treatment for her condition,” the representative said in an email. “Our medical team has carefully reviewed his case and our medical procedures, and the available medical evidence does not support the treatment he received. He is requesting his condition. Therefore, it is not a benefit covered under the family health plan.”
The representative added that Anthem’s appeals process provides “additional review” that provides “more opportunities for new or additional policies to be considered under the family health plan.”
A few hours after posting the video, Honig tweeted that someone from Anthem called to say they were “sorry” and that the company was “looking into it.” In another tweetsaid that the representative came back and explained why Anthem does not consider Botox to be medically necessary.
“I think it’s time to admit that it IS makeup, I turned 30 and I want my stomach to look younger,” she laughed.
After the video was released, many online agreed with Honig, sharing their experiences trying to convince health care providers.
“My brother had a rare stomach disorder called SMAS where he couldn’t keep food down,” a Twitter user wrote he answered. “He was 19 years old when our insurance would cover the feeding tube operation even though there is bypass surgery that would allow him to live a normal life.”
In a follow-up tweet, the user said that their brother received the surgery “by accident,” but his insurance still hasn’t paid for it.
“I’m so sorry you’re going through the same thing. It was a difficult and scary time for my family but that was three years ago and now my brother is doing great and living a good life because of that surgery,” the user wrote. “America’s health care system is terrible.”
Actor and author Jesse Nowack words tweeted Honig’s video, says Anthem refused medical treatment when he was urinating blood.
Another Twitter user he said that their sister had to get a pacemaker implanted in her stomach to treat her gastroparesis, and it was “difficult” to get that treatment.
Oklahoma Progress Now, an activist group that builds coalitions and creates progressive products, as well tweeted the answer.
“The most difficult thing to swallow here is that many people still think that people are overusing medical care (for real problems and diseases) against greedy insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and private hospitals that are only providing care for their own profit,” the non-profit wrote.
Some commentators found the video amusing, even disturbing.
“Sorry they denied the appeal,” Twitter user coffeespoonie he said. “That sounds silly but as someone with chronic pain this has really touched something inside of me.”
“I also have gastroparesis and my old insurance company refused to cover motility meds,” another user he wrote. “I will remember this way.”