Talk about the power of social media — one graduate student battling Stage IV colon cancer in Arizona found out his Aetna health insurance plan had exceeded his $300,000 limit.He took to Twitter to express his frustration as his medical bills continued to grow and it turns out someone very influential was listening — the CEO of Aetna, who has subsequently agreed to pay “every last penny” of the man’s medical expenses and agrees that the healthcare system is broken.
Arijit, 30, found out that what he thought was a stomach bug contracted on a trip to India was actually Stage IV colon cancer. And although his $400 per month student insurance policy seemed generous, he had already exceeded its cap after surgery and chemotherapy, with more treatment to go, reports ABC News. Lifetime caps are still in place on student plans, even as they have been eliminated in other plans under the Affordable Healthcare Act.
So he jumped into a social media campaign to rally others to his cause, and caught the eye of Aetna CEO Mark T. Bertolini last week. Bertolini tweeted directly to Arijit and promised to pay “every last penny” of his medical bills.
“The system is broken, and I am committed to fixing it,” Bertolini tweeted. “I am glad we connected today and got this issue solved. I appreciate the dialogue no matter how pointed. I’ve got it and own it!”
Understandably, Arijit is pretty stoked.
“I am incredibly pleased and in shell shock and trying to figure out what just happened. It’s a huge relief,” he told ABC News.
Bertolini has experienced his share of healthcare issues — his son was diagnosed at 16 with a rare and often fatal lymphoma, and he himself was disabled in a ski accident.
Arijit had managed to raise $120,000 himself by selling T-shirts with his campaign slogan, “Poop Strong,” a tongue-in-cheek nod to Lance Armstrong’s “Live Strong.” He says he’s now going to donate all of that money to cancer charities in Arizona, now that Aetna is footing his bill.
Arijit is in remission now, but any future treatments he needs will be covered under his student plan, which now has a lifetime limit of $1 million.. An Aetna spokeswoman says the company will cover his costs through the end of the plan year.
“While we are pleased to have found a solution for our member, we recognize that there is much more work to be done to fix the problems in our health care system,” she said in a statement. “We are committed to reforms that make the system work better for everyone.”
“I take it day by day,” Arijit said. “It’s quite likely that I’ll have chemo again if [the cancer] pops up again. But I feel really good and I’m looking good.”
So keep tweeting your case if you think you’ve got one — you never know who might actually be paying attention.