“THEY’RE JUST WAITING FOR ME TO DIE.”
Ernest Donnel of Roseville, California started working for the Bel-Air grocery store chain in 1968, right after he returned home from serving in the Navy. He’d worked at Bel-Air for 25 years before he was injured in the warehouse; a pallet of bottled water fell on him from the top rack, 20 feet above him, breaking his back in 2 places. After 6 weeks of treatment and physical therapy, he was able to walk again, despite being in intense pain. It was then that his workers’ compensation insurance problems began to surface.
Even though the accident was captured very clearly on the warehouse video surveillance tapes, for seven years afterward he was sent to several doctors that denied his painful condition. He and his late wife drove an excessive number of miles – to Woodland, Carmichael, Sacramento, to name just a few – even though his hometown of Roseville had an abundance of qualified physicians. He went to all the psychiatrists that his insurer asked him to see, as well; they tried to discount his character and his pain, so that the insurance company wouldn’t have to cover his medical bills.
After he was followed repeatedly by private investigators to disprove the legitimacy of his injury, he was found 100% disabled by the judge on his case. He was awarded a small cash settlement along with lifetime medical care. He settled this way because he knew that he’d need help with his damaged body for the rest of his life. But CorVel insurance is not fulfilling their pact to provide medical treatment.
Thirteen years after the accident, he is still dealing with severe chronic pain. He has migraines from his neck injury. His pain is not going to go away, and while his doctor prescribes pain medicine, CorVel denies it repeatedly. “I don’t know what to do,” he says; “I’m in a corner.” The approval system is capricious; on the months that his pain medication is approved, he’s afraid to take it the way he’s supposed to – even though he’s in horrible pain – for fear of the medicine being denied the following month and then dealing with the physical repercussions of stopping cold turkey on medications you’re supposed to taper down on.
The insurance company will only pay for his doctor visits now, but what is the point, he asks, if all the treatment is denied? The doctor knows what’s wrong with him; and Ernest knows his pain intimately, but the insurance company provides “ZERO help”. “We all know what’s wrong,” he says, “but they’re just waiting for me to die, to just give up and die.”
The emotional strain of being denied treatment has taken a toll on him. “I can’t sleep. I can’t eat.” He longs for the old days “when people used to matter.”
“Money and greed is all it is. They want someone else to pay their bills.” He’s 70 years old now, so the cost of his care has been shifted to Medicare, into which we all pay. Meanwhile, CorVel Corporation is enriched, and Ernest Donnel continues to suffer. When and how will his struggle end? When will this abuse be made illegal so that he doesn’t have to suffer to the bitter end?