By MIKE LEE
A tenacious local president challenged the system by advocating for a Local 1505 member to receive life-saving equipment.
Samuel Marshall, a Local 1505 City Park Worker, has a severe heart condition that requires extensive care and monitoring. In late May, Marshall entered an emergency room complaining of shortness of breath. After monitoring and diagnosis, it was recommended he receive a “LifeVest” to prevent a sudden cardiac death.
Although related, a sudden cardiac death is different from a heart attack. Cardiac death is caused by an irregular heartbeat that eventually stops beating. When that occurs, the individual can lose consciousness and cease breathing.
The immediate signs of a sudden cardiac death are different from a heart attack. In a heart attack, there are warning signs and time to call for help. With a sudden cardiac death, the only indication is loss of consciousness, which can happen whether someone is awake or asleep. Without immediate treatment, the patient will die.
The LifeVest is a wearable external cardiac defibrillator that protects patients at risk of sudden cardiac death without medical care nearby. The LifeVest constantly monitors the patient’s heartbeat to detect certain life-threatening rapid heart rhythms and automatically delivers a treatment shock to save a patient’s life.
While some defibrillator devices are implanted under the skin, the LifeVest is worn directly against the patient’s skin. It is lightweight and easy to wear, allowing patients to return to their daily activities.
When ZOLL, the manufacturer of LifeVest, checked Marshall’s insurance, they discovered it did not cover the device.
“With sudden cardiac death, you just go unconscious. That scared Mr. Marshall,” said Ricky Watt, a Territory Executive working with ZOLL. “Marshall wanted to make sure he received that monitor. When he found out he couldn’t get it, he reached out to his union.”
When Dilcy Benn, President of Local 1505, was informed of Marshall’s sensitive situation, she immediately sprang to action, contacting DC 37 leaders and others to help resolve Marshall’s issue quickly while working hand-in-hand with Watt.
“I couldn’t believe this was going on,” Benn said. “This member faces a life-threatening situation every day. So I began banging on doors to get this taken care of quickly.”
Without another solution, Marshall would have to pay $3,800 out-of-pocket for the LifeVest, which was decidedly unaffordable. Instead, the union discovered through his insurance provider that there was an optional rider for durable equipment, which would cover the LifeVest for $5 a month. After negotiation, the insurance company also agreed to retroactively implement the rider, since the enrollment period had passed when the option was discovered.
“I was relentless, calling daily, asking questions and pushing toward a resolution,” Benn said. “It’s how you have to be to get these issues resolved. In less than two weeks, we resolved it through Marshall’s insurance.”
Watt said he spoke to Benn regularly and let her know how to explain the situation to the insurance company.
“Dilcy always followed up, asking about the process and whose hands it was in,” Watt said. “She was proactive in ensuring her member got this equipment. It was a good partnership. She is tenacious and determined.”
Now Marshall is protected. The doctor monitors his heart through the device for 23.5 hours a day with a 30-minute break to shower without the vest. Marshall is proactive in maintaining self-care, including calling for more information and making lifestyle changes to help with his condition.
He’s now back on the job, able to continue his work in public service with peace of mind.
Above all, he has access to a life-saving medical device thanks to the power of DC 37 advocating for him and his medical needs.