When insurers require patients to stop treatment

After being denied coverage for medication for an immunodeficiency disease, Gillen Washington was hospitalized with pneumonia and a collapsed lung.

Story highlights

  • Thousands in US are thought to be dependent on medications for primary immunodeficiency diseases
  • Some ave faced increasing difficulty getting insurers to approve treatments, advocates say

Gillen Washington, a student at Northern Arizona University, had been getting medication for an immunodeficiency disease since 2011.

But when he went to his clinic in November 2014 for the monthly dose, a nurse told him his insurance company had denied it.
    Soon after, the plan sent him a letter saying his bloodwork was outdated and didn't show that the treatment was medically necessary, Washington's attorney said.
    Over the next few months, as Washington appealed the insurance company's decision, he developed a cough that wouldn't go away. He moved home to Huntington Beach, Calif., and ended up in the hospital with pneumonia and a collapsed lung.
    "It was terrifying," said Washington, 22. "I have never felt so depressed and so scared in my entire life."
    In 2015, Washington filed a breach of contract lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court against his insurer, Aetna, arguing that the company had improperly denied him the medication. The case is set for trial this month.
    Gillen Washington, here as an Eagle Scout in high school, had been getting medication for an immunodeficiency disease since 2011.