Avid Advocate readers—if such a breed exists—may recall a feature from last February in which we followed former nurse Lysa Philipson’s battle against Lincoln Financial Group (LFG), Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center’s disability insurer. For those unfamiliar with the case, her story starts just over a year ago, when multiple autoimmune disorders rendered her incapable of work—and LFG denied her disability benefits.
Last we wrote, Philipson had been approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA), after a grueling nine-month battle involving LFG and Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, whose hands were initially “tied” when Philipson asked for advocacy. Good Samaritan managed to do one nice thing for Philipson in early February, by amending her policy to include SSA disability determination as a trigger for benefits. We left Philipson on a hopeful note, assured that Lincoln Financial would stop with their stalling tactics and finally approve her for the benefits she worked for for over 30 years.
Where we last left off, LFG stalled their decision another 45 days, requiring Philipson see a rheumatologist (who, as she guessed it, addressed the least of her issues). “I am beyond angry,” Phillipson wrote. “It was April 4, 2015 when I woke up and just knew my body was done.” LFG’s antics continuing, Philipson believes at this juncture that she will be taking them to court.
In support of Philipson and other nurses at Good Samaritan, the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) bargaining department has issued contract negotiations that would prevent situations such as these from happening again. ONA has also voted to launch a Go Fund Me account for Philipson, with a $1,500 start. As told by ONA Communications Manager Kevin Mealy, the ONA bargaining unit executive team at Good Samaritan “has pledged $1,500 as an initial contribution and plans to raise more.”
ONA’s contract proposals, which would affect short-term and long-term disability plans for nurses at Good Samaritan, are under consideration as the current contract agreement between ONA and Good Samaritan ends June 30. ONA has proposed two changes. First, that Good Samaritan “shall not make limitations on a nurse’s ability to opt-in at times of open enrollment based on prior opt-out decisions.” Currently, Good Samaritan nurses can only enroll in disability insurance plans at the time of hire, or after experiencing a qualifying life event. The proposed change would give nurses increased access to disability insurance during regular open enrollment periods.
Second, ONA has proposed that if a nurse, such as in Philipson’s case, should experience issues in receiving long-term disability benefits, “the Medical Center will continue paying the nurse their FTE until the final determination is resolved.” This would have saved Philipson from months of zero compensation, or from draining her early retirement funds.
“Good Samaritan needs to ensure all its employees receive the benefits they’ve earned,” Mealy said. “When there is a problem between Good Samaritan’s insurance company and a Good Samaritan employee, the hospital needs to support its staff and work to achieve a fair and timely resolution.”
As for Philipson, the battle continues, alongside her declining health. “The stress of this disability game of cat and mouse is making me sicker and more stressed, and even more fatigued,” she said. We can only hope Good Samaritan and ONA can reach an agreement which gives better access to benefits for Good Samaritan employees, lest this horror story repeats itself.
If you would like to help support Lysa Philipson, find her Go Fund Me account, set up by the Oregon Nurses Association, at https://www.gofundme.com/
By Stevie Beisswanger