Wigged Out

Insurance-company evil comes in all sizes

I wondered how many chemotherapy-patient wigs McGuire earned.
Judy Ramirez, owner of Image Choices in South County, the area's largest wig retailer, told me the average wig, with accessories, costs roughly $200. By my calculation, then, the CEO of United HealthCare raked in about 100,000 wigs last year.

Ramirez, a registered nurse who worked for 10 years in medical management at Blue Cross/Blue Shield, has seen this issue from both sides of the fence. She doesn't have any doubt that the wigs should be covered.

"This is a small-ticket item, but these insurance companies don't have any idea about the emotional and physical effects of chemotherapy," Ramirez says. "Or if they have an idea, they don't care."

My friend Ann Smith, who bought a wig for $150, cares.
"This isn't a monetary thing," she said. "I can afford the wig, although lots of other women can't, but what this really comes down to is just another emotional blow. And it couldn't come at a harder time."

By the way, my friend's name isn't Ann Smith. Courageous as she is in her struggle, she insisted that I protect her identity out of fear that United would try to cut off her coverage -- or otherwise try to hurt her -- if I used her real name.

My first reaction was that she was being overly cautious, that a giant enterprise like United would hardly concern itself with such a little matter as this. Then I thought about her wig, and about the denial of coverage, and I realized she had a point.

These people make a lot of money off the little matters. And they don't make it by being nice.

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