Wednesday 22 October 2014

Cancer patient rejected by Aviva to get public care

Alan O'Keeffe

Published 19/05/2014 | 09:59

Bobby Power,  who was denied a life-saving cancer drug treatment by Aviva Health, with his daughter Lucy and grandchildren Ryan (4) [in green t-shirt] and baby Liam.
Bobby Power, who was denied a life-saving cancer drug treatment by Aviva Health, with his daughter Lucy and grandchildren Ryan (4) [in green t-shirt] and baby Liam.

A CANCER patient whose insurance company refused to pay for a life-saving drug will now get the vital medication as a public patient.

Bobby Power (67) was “very relieved” when informed he can begin a course of treatment using the Ipilimumab drug for his advanced melanoma cancer in his liver on Thursday.

The father of four was scheduled to receive the treatment at the Mater Private Hospital last Monday, when it was suddenly cancelled after Aviva Health insurance refused to pick up the bill.

Aviva Health said it would review its stance if the price of the treatment is reduced in future – the treatment costs €100,000 per four-week course.

“My dad is just so very relieved that the HSE have now said it will fund the treatment at the Mater Hospital. He will be treated as a public patient after a place became available on Thursday due to a cancellation,” said Mr Power’s daughter Lucy Danagher.

“Aviva’s refusal to cover his treatment has caused him immense stress. We’re very grateful to the HSE.”

Following Aviva’s refusal, Mr Power told The Herald his oncologist had informed him it was a matter of great urgency he received the Ipilimumab.

Speaking at his home in Portlaw, Co Waterford, he said he was informed the drug would give him a “fighting chance”.

Mr Power, who has four young grandchildren, had been a member of VHI for almost 40 years. When first diagnosed with melanoma in 2010, VHI funded the removal of part of his thumb as a means to removing the cancer.

In 2012 he switched to Aviva Health after receiving assurances from it that his cancer cover would be the same as the VHI.

He continued to receive CAT scans at the Mater Private Hospital in Dublin to monitor any recurrence of the cancer. Then last month it was discovered it had returned.

Aviva’s decision had left him “in limbo”, he said. He was enormously relieved that he had been accepted for the treatment as a public patient.

A spokesperson for Aviva Ireland acknowledged that the VHI have been paying for the treatment for its customers since August 2012.

The spokesperson said it had decided to follow the advice of the body known as the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics which “advised against covering Ipilimumab at the price quoted to Aviva by the drug company having regard to its effectiveness in terms of patient outcomes”.

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