When her insurance company denied her coverage to treat a stomach condition that causes frequent vomiting, Sandy Honig decided to appeal the decision in a more unconventional way.
The comedian — who is known for co-creating the HBO Max show Three Busy Debras — uploaded a video, which has since gone viral, showing her vomiting outside the insurance company’s building. Many times.
“Well, nobody’s going to take my letter, but they said I could mail it in and leave it with any relevant documentation,” Honig says in the video, before opening the envelope and dropping it in.
Her “appeal” may not have worked, but the viral stunt has sparked an online discussion about the lengths many Americans must go to get affordable medical care.
Honig, 30, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But online she has been vocal about her condition, gastroparesis, which affects the stomach muscles and prevents her stomach from emptying properly.
It makes her throw up almost everything she eats, she said in a I tweetand she currently manages it by eating “slowly small amounts of simple meals throughout the day.”
One treatment that has worked for her, she said in her YouTube video, is getting Botox injections into her pyloric muscles, the muscles that control the movement of partially digested food from the stomach to the small intestine.
She said her insurance provider, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, deemed the procedure medically unnecessary. Since the relief from Botox only lasts a few months, Honig said she paid out of pocket to continue the treatment.
Her video, which she filmed in January and posted on Instagram, I tweet and YouTube on Monday, opens with her writing a letter appealing a decision by Anthem. She then tries to hand-deliver it to the company’s office building in Woodland Hills, California. After being denied entry because he didn’t have an employee badge, Honig spins on his heel, exits the building and promptly vomits outside its doors.
She continues to vomit in the parking lot several times in the video, terrifying passers-by.
Honig claims Anthem sent police officers to her home after she filmed the video in front of the company’s building.
She also showed part of the Jan. 19 police report, which said the Los Angeles Police Department “conducted a welfare check.” The report also included the phrase “poss 5150,” California’s legal code for an involuntary psychiatric hold. She also posted a selfie with an officer in the background.
An Anthem representative would not comment on Honig’s claim that the company sent police to her home after the incident was filmed.
However, the representative said, the company’s coverage policies “are based on evidence-based medicine, using medical society position statements, leading peer-reviewed medical journals and input from physician specialists across the country.”
“We want to ensure that Ms. Honig receives the appropriate treatment for her particular condition,” the representative said in an email. “Our clinical team has carefully reviewed her case and our medical policies, and the existing medical evidence does not support the treatment she requires for her condition. Therefore, it is not a benefit covered by the family health plan.”
The representative added that Anthem’s appeals process provides “additional review” that provides “further opportunities for new or additional facts and circumstances to be considered under the family health plan.”
A few hours after posting the video, Honig posted on Twitter that someone from Anthem called him and said “they feel terrible” and that the company is “looking into it.” IN another tweetshe said the representative called and explained why Anthem does not consider Botox medically necessary.
“I think now is the time to admit it’s cosmetic, I just turned 30 and I want the inside of my stomach to look younger,” she joked.
After the video was released, many people flocked to Honig online, sharing their experiences trying to appeal to their health care providers.
“My brother had a similar rare stomach disease called SMAS where he couldn’t keep food down,” one Twitter user said. he answered. “He was 19 when the only thing our insurance would cover was an operation for a feeding tube even though he has a bypass operation that would allow him to live a normal life.”
In the next tweet, the user said their brother got the surgery in an “emergency capacity” but his insurance still hasn’t paid for it.
“So sorry you’re going through something similar. It was a really hard and scary time for my family but that was three years ago and now my brother is totally fine and living a normal life thanks to that surgery,” she wrote the user. “The American health care system is beyond a nightmare.”
Actor and writer Jesse Nowack quote posted on Twitter Honig’s video, and said Anthem denied coverage for a medical procedure when he was urinating blood.
Another Twitter user said that their sister had to get an abdominal pacemaker to treat her gastroparesis and it was “a long struggle” to get that treatment.
Oklahoma Progress Now, a progressive advocacy group that builds coalitions and creates progressive content, too posted on Twitter an answer.
“The really hard thing to swallow here is that so many people still assume that people are overusing the health care system (for very real disorders and diseases) versus greedy insurance companies, drug companies, and medical institutions private simply rationalizing care for more profits.” the non-profit organization wrote.
Some commenters found the video entertaining, if demoralizing.
“I’m so sorry they denied the appeal,” tweeted coffeespoonie said. “It’s absurd, but as someone with chronic emesis it fulfilled something deep inside me.”
“I also have gastroparesis and my old insurance company refused to cover any motility medication,” another user has written. “I will keep this strategy in mind.”